“Ma’am, huwag kayo maniwala sa mga sinasabi ng mga buang na ‘yan (Ma’am, don’t believe a word those crazy people are saying).” With an exasperated look, the manong guard addressed my worried question if it was indeed true that the DFA’s electronic encoding machines were out of order. Well, I guess I wasn’t the first one to complain.
My question stemmed from the fact that fixers tried to coerce me to have my picture taken at their office. This after berating them: no, I am getting an ePassport and no, I don’t need printed photos for the application form.
In their desperate attempt to fool a customer, they resorted to saying that the ePassport encoding machines were down and out for the next two weeks, so my only recourse was to get an MRP. Being the “calm” monster that I am, I counted ‘til 20 (beyond the usual 10), before I blurted: it’s okay, I’m not in a hurry to renew my passport and that I’ll just set another appointment.
This occurred while I was a mere few meters away from the DFA entrance. I wonder why these opportunists are not being penalized and banned by the Department. They even have the audacity to wear IDs to make them look legitimate.
I pity those who are easily swayed by their persuasive and fraudulent deeds.
On the plus side, I’m starting to love the GRP’s initiatives to digitize and to make accessible the renewal of government documents. I mean, who doesn’t fancy the LTO’s Driver’s License Renewal Centers located in SM malls? No lines and a new license card in 30 minutes. Now, here comes the internet appointment system of DFA. Fast processing and short queuing in 15 minutes (and if you know me, you’ll know I mooove slowly).
The ePassport project is part of the DFA’s modernization program that started in 2007, with the launch of the Machine-Readable Passport (MRP). Launched late 2009, the biometric passport has advanced security features which costs only Php950.00 (versus the MRP priced at Php500.00). Both are compliant with international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, of which our beloved country is a member.
“The ePassport’s security features have been enhanced with a hidden encoded image, an ultra-thin holographic laminate and a tamper-proof electronic microchip. Its integrated circuit chip stores the passport holder’s photograph and other personal data for easy verification of identity. The chip can be read by border control officials in other countries using a passport chip reader.” This was lifted from the DFA’s press release.
Since my green passport was set to expire in June, I was excited to apply for the ePassport and at the same time check out their internet appointment system. Existing passport holders have the option to choose between an MRP and an ePassport. Unfortunately, for new applicants, you have no choice but to apply for the MRP.
I logged my details using the online ePassport form and received a confirmation and schedule within 24 hours. The DFA email included a detailed set of requirements and reminders. The significant difference between an ePassport and MRP application is that there’s no need to attach printed photos as well as thumbmarks since these will be encoded digitally. The regular processing timeline is ten days. For expedited requests, the fee shoots up to Php1,200.00.
To date, DFA accepts only 100 ePassport applications daily. Hence, the entire process is a breeze (especially if you get the afternoon schedule). I was originally scheduled within the 3:00 – 4:00 PM period. I got there an hour earlier and was allowed to proceed with the application.
When picking up the passport, other than the holder, the DFA will only release the document to immediate family members. As an option, courier/door-to-door delivery services are available to applicants. By 2:15 PM, I was already in line at the LBC counter. For Php100.00, the ePassport will be delivered on the scheduled date of its release.
For more information, you can always go to the DFA website. If by some twist of fate it’s down, you can always ask me. :)