Travel agencies asking Cebu legislators to help lift bar on passport processing

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012


THE National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas)-Cebu is asking the support of Cebu legislators on their concerns against the directive by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) barring travel agencies from processing passports.

The new directive, according to Naitas Cebu chairperson Jenny Franco, will have a direct impact not only on the employment and business operations of travel agencies but also on the security and convenience of applicants.

The move to petition congressmen was decided after a meeting of Naitas Cebu members on Monday.

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“Tourism means job but why are they killing travel agents,” said Naitas chairman emeritus Bobby Joseph. He said liaison officers may find themselves out of job under the new directive.

Small travel agencies will also be affected as they also depend on accredited travel agencies for their passport services, he said.

Cebu has about 62 DFA-accredited travel agencies.

According to Joseph, passport applications in Cebu reach 1,000 to 1,300 per day. DFA, however, can process only up to 500 applications per day.

With the new directive, Joseph said that out of the 500, only five percent or 25 passport application slots per day will be allotted to travel agencies so they could continue servicing their clients until Dec. 31 this year.

“Are we going to allow these 62 travel agencies to fight over the 25 passports? It seems like we are making it difficult for Filipinos to acquire passports,” he said.

Franco, who owns Travel-vision, also noted removing the passport services from travel agencies would reduce their income by 20 percent. Although they also offer other services such as tour packages, Franco said travel agencies earn an average of P25,000 to P30,000 monthlyfor passport services.

In its May 2 directive, the DFA instructed its consular offices nationwide to no longer accredit travel agencies offering passport services effective June 30, 2012 and to remove the special privileges enjoyed by accredited agencies such as guaranteed slots and express processing for their clients.

Foreign Affairs undersecretary Rafael Seguis said in a statement that “the directive was issued simply to ensure that all passport applicants, regardless of their social status, get to experience the same privileges but at no additional cost to them.”

Seguis said this is their own way of implementing the “No Wang-Wang policy of the
President.” The DFA collects P950 for regular passport processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.

But Franco questioned that if the DFA wants equal services then why is it offering two processing fees.

“Isn’t that hypocrisy?” she said.

Franco said the DFA should give Filipinos the freedom to choose how they are going to have their passports processed, either personally or through accredited travel agencies.

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“Those who do not want to avail (themselves) of our services are free to go to the DFA by themselves. Nobody is stopping them,” she said. “But there are those who are coming from far away provinces or corporate executives who are so busy and would rather avail (themselves) of the services of a legitimate travel agency and (are) willing to pay for our services.”

Franco said travel agents are a big help to the DFA on the pre-checking the papers of the passport-applicants, which would lessen the work of the processors and decongest the DFA.

Franco also raised concerns on security and convenience among applicants as they need to line up as early as 5 a.m. Some also go as early as midnight to get priority numbers.

The DFA processes three million passport applications per year.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 26, 2012.

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