By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz
(Photo courtesy of Presidential Photo Division/PCOO)
MANILA (Philippines News Agency) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will do “whatever it takes” to erase its 3,000,000-passport backlog within the next few months, including spending all its remaining funds.
DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. likewise ordered the launch of more temporary off-site passport service (TOPS) offices all around and outside Metro Manila in addition to the five existing TOPs sites.
“This is why DFA exists: to serve the public. Period,” Locsin tweeted on Monday.
DFA Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said in a news channel interview, also on Monday, that the additional off-site passport services may open next month to cover the backlog.
TOPS offices in operation since July 7 are at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, SM Aura in Taguig, SM North Edsa in Quezon City, Robinsons Las Piñas, and Robinsons Magnolia, also in Quezon City.
TOPS offices are the DFA’s solution to the pandemic-induced delay that forced the limited capacity of consular offices in compliance with health and safety protocols.
“Ito ‘yung sagot namin para mabalik lamang ang aming kapasidad sa pre-pandemic level pero na-o-observe pa rin natin ang social distancing at venue capacity (This is our solution so that our capacity will return to pre-pandemic level while we’re still observing social distancing and venue capacity),” Dulay said.
Before the pandemic, Dulay said DFA consular offices were processing 30,000 passports per day. The number dropped to 6,000 daily when the health crisis broke out. (PNA)