The long road to a Philippine passport

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11:03 PM September 23rd, 2017

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By: Nestle L. Semilla, September 23rd, 2017 11:03 PM

Hundreds of passport applicants line up in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs regional office (DFA-7) in Pacific Mall Mandaue City. Although people are still queuing to get their passports done, DFA-7 says the lines are not as bad as before because of the online appointment procedure.
CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA

PART 1

Alan Francisco could no longer wait until next year to get his passport done.

Francisco, who has been searching for a better life, wants to travel abroad for work.

Not wanting to waste time, he decided to get an appointment at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental to apply for a passport.

Francisco, a native of Cebu City, scheduled his DFA appointment online.

The 25-year-old call center agent said he tried to book for an appointment at the DFA-Cebu office last month, but he was told that there were no more slots available for this year.

Francisco is prepared to spend for air or boat fare in going to Dumaguete just to get his passport done.

“Okay ra nako moadto og Dumaguete. Mohapit nalang usab ko og laag,” Francisco said.

(I’m okay with traveling to Dumaguete. I’ll just do sidetrips and treat it as an outing.)

Traveling from Cebu City to Dumaguete could start at the Cebu South Bus Terminal (SBT).

For a fare of P200, the bus travels from SBT to Liloan Port in Santander town where there are several ferries await passengers bound for Dumaguete.
A ferry ride to Sibulan Port in Negros Oriental will cost at least a hundred pesos.

From Sibulan Port, one could take the “Easy Ride”, a type of public utility vehicle, to Dumaguete City for another 15 minutes.

There are also fastcrafts from Cebu City that go directly to Dumaguete which will cost more than a thousand pesos for a one way trip.

If Francisco decides to take a direct flight from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to Dumaguete Domestic Airport, the fare would be at least P2,000.

Francisco is just one of many Cebu residents opting to apply for their passport in DFA offices located outside of Cebu province.

COSTLY TRAVEL

Chyrel Gomez, 31, processed her passport in the DFA office in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, last February.

She said that it took her two months to get her appointment. But she also spent around P5,000 for the travel and processing fee.

Gomez said she was forced to spend for her travel to Bacolod because she desperately needed a passport within the year to be able to travel to Southeast Asian countries for business and leisure.

Online, Gomez tried to book an appointment with DFA-Cebu last February; but the slots were all taken for the next months.

She then tried to get an appointment with the other DFA offices near Cebu: Dumaguete and Bacolod, and was able to set one last April — in Bacolod.
“It is easier to get a passport in Bacolod or Dumaguete since there were not much applicants. Less compared here in Cebu,” Gomez said.

THEN AND NOW

For Kashia Kamille Cumla, who applied for a passport in 2013, her recent experience with DFA-Cebu was much different.

Cumla said that she tried to book an appointment for her mother and younger siblings but to no avail.

“The slots are already full until December,” Cumla said.

Back in 2013, the passport application process was on a first-come-first-serve basis and there were no online appointments yet.

Cumla arrived at DFA-Cebu as early as 5 a.m., but she was able to start processing her documents nine hours later at around 2 p.m.

For the 25-year-old Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), DFA’s appointment policy although a disadvantage, could also be good because at least, one knew exactly when and what time to go.

“It’s a disadvantage like now when you want to get your passport soon and then you’re told that there are no more slots; but the bad thing before about having no appointments was that it also took a while for someone from DFA to entertain you,” she said in Cebuano.

(To be concluded)

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