Quick rollout of 10-year passports urged

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Philippine passport (Photo from http://riyadhpe.dfa.gov.ph/newsroom/press-releases/2284-philippine-embassy-extends-183-484-consular-services-in-2015)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure extending the validity of Philippine passports from five to 10 years, except for those of minors which would only have a five-year validity.

Republic Act No. 10928, however, allows the Department of Foreign Affairs to limit the validity of some passports to less than 10 years “whenever in the national economic interest or political stability of the country” makes it necessary.

The law will take effect once the DFA has completed its implementing rules and regulations.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara urged the DFA not to delay the issuance of the IRR.

“I am calling on my good friend, Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, to place a ‘Do not delay sign’ on the rollout of the 10-year Philippine passport,” Angara said.

“The earlier it can be introduced, the better for millions of overseas Filipino workers and those who travel abroad on budget tours,” he added.

Angara noted that an average of 250,000 Filipinos apply every month for renewal or new passports.

“If the passport with a longer validity can be introduced six months ahead of schedule, then that would be 1.5 million Filipinos benefitting early because of the new law,” Angara said.

Angara issued the reminder “out of the fear that red tape will delay the release of the 10-year valid passport if the DFA will decide to study first if they will have to introduce a new series that would include more pages.”

Former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she was elated that the measure, which she co-authored at the House of Representatives, has already been signed into law.

“Extending the passport validity from five to 10 years has been one of the first bills I filed at the start of the present Congress because I have always believed that the 5-year validity is too short considering the tedious process and the cost required to renew a passport,” Arroyo said.

“With this new law, I am hopeful that Filipinos’ unimpaired exercise of their constitutional right to travel will be enhanced,” she added.

The President also signed into law Republic Act No. 10930 which extends the validity of drivers’ licenses up to five years.

The measure states that if a driver commits no traffic violation within five years, he may be entitled to a renewal of 10 years.

Stricter requirements in obtaining drivers licenses would also be implemented, with the Land Transportation Office tasked to craft prerequisites and guidelines to “ensure that these are issued only to deserving applicants with sufficient driving skills and knowledge.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the two laws are anti-red tape measures that hopefully would cut the queues and the time in applying for essential documents used by millions of Filipinos.

“The benefit of having a five-year driver’s license is sadly diluted by the continuing non-availability of the license cards. We hope this will lead to the wiping out of the backlog in delivery,” Recto said.

Recto, however, stressed that the longer validity of these documents should not prompt an increase in their price tags, noting that charges for government-issued documents should only recover the cost in processing and producing them.

“In short, fees to be retained by the DFA and the LTO must be just enough to recoup expenses in rendering this public service, and not to profit from it,” the senator added.

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