Government defends move not to deputize travel agencies on passports-A A +A
Sunday, August 12, 2012
THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday defended its decision to disallow travel agencies from offering passport processing services to applicants starting January 1 next year.
In a statement, Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis said there is no truth to the claim of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (Naitas) that the new guideline is “unreasonable and discriminatory”.
Rather, the official said they are just looking at leveling the playing field in terms of all passport applicants having access to the improved consular services from the DFA.
“In fact, the guidelines do not prevent travel agencies from assisting those who are willing and have the means to avail themselves of the services they offer. The guidelines are intended to allow ordinary passport applicants to enjoy the same special treatment travel agency clients enjoy but at no extra cost to them,” said Seguis.
At present, special privileges are given to travel agencies to be able to process their clients’ passports and be guaranteed of same-day processing and dedicated express lanes.
In turn, travel agency-assisted applicants must shell out anywhere from P1,800 to P7,000 for the said privileges, which is higher than the P1,200-fee for expedited processing paid by ordinary applicants.
“Unfortunately, unlike travel agency clients, who can breeze through the application process, ordinary applicants have to come to our offices as early as midnight and wait in line for hours before they could be served,” said Seguis.
Travel agencies said the DFA directive is unreasonable and discriminatory towards small travel agencies all over the country and unfair to people who want to avail their services.
To cater more applicants, the DFA implemented the transfer of consular offices inside shopping malls to cut long lines that have been associated with the passport application process.
Seguis also cited the extension of office hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, as well as the releasing of passports half-days during Sundays. (HDT/Sunnex)