DFA: Some consular services to resume May 4

By: Christia Marie Ramos - INQUIRER.net May 02,2020 - 09:40 AM

Department of Foreign Affairs. (Photo from the DFA Facebook account)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Friday that some of its consular offices will resume operations starting May 4 while enforcing strict safety and health measures.

Normal operations of consular offices in Luzon were temporarily suspended while some consular offices after the government placed the entire island under an enhanced community quarantine. Meanwhile, consular offices in Visayas and Mindanao operated with skeleton workforces following the imposition of the local community quarantine.

But with several parts of Luzon now placed under the more relaxed general community quarantine and other cities in Visayas and Mindanao have lifted their community quarantine policies, operations in several consular offices would return to normal operations provided that precautionary health measures are observed, the DFA said in a statement.

According to the DFA, its consular offices in Cotabato, La Union, Legazpi, Puerto Princesa, Santiago, and Tuguegarao will start serving the public. The rest of the consular offices in Luzon will remain closed until the end of the extended community quarantine (ECQ).

“However, as Misamis Occidental is under modified General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until 15 May 2020, applicants of (consular office) in Clarin from outside the province will have to present several documents to the Provincial Government to be allowed entry into the province,” the DFA added.

‘New normal’

To adhere to health protocols prescribed by the Department of Health (DOH), walk-in applications at DFA’s consular officers would not be allowed during the general community quarantine period and accommodation of applicants would be strictly regulated.

The DFA also advised those availing of consular services, including passport issuance or renewal coursed through the Courtesy Lane and the Diplomatic and Official Passports Section, to schedule an appointment via e-mail.

Moreover, the DFA encouraged applicants to avail of online payments and delivery of passports to minimize physical contact and reduce the likelihood of exposure.

“Those who cannot avail of said services will still be allowed to transact and collect their passport and documents at the (consular office) while observing strict physical distancing measures on their scheduled day of appointment,” it added.

The DFA, likewise, advised applicants aged 60 and above, as well as those considered by the DOH to be vulnerable, not to proceed with their applications for consular services at this time.

“However, in cases of urgent need, they may wish to coordinate with the Office of Consular Affairs further on how they may be accommodated,” the DFA said.

Temperature checks, face masks required

Applicants and personnel would need to undergo temperature checks upon entry to the consular offices and

would be required to wear a face mask while inside the premises.

“We seek the understanding of the public as we shift to a ‘new normal’ process so that we can minimize potential health hazards for applicants and our personnel alike while ensuring the prompt and efficient delivery of consular services to the public,” DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Neil Frank Ferrer said.

Metro Manila and other “high risk” areas remains under an enhanced community quarantine until May 15 while a general community quarantine has been imposed on areas which have moderate or low risk to the virus.

To date, Philippine health authorities have so far confirmed 8,488 COVID-19 cases in the country.

Of the number, 568 have died while 1,043 have so far recovered. / JPV

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