TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs
for the launch of the Temporary Offsite Passport Services
07 July 2021, SM Mall of Asia
Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Affairs Brigido J. Dulay;
Mr. Steven Tan;
Colleagues in the DFA; Partners; Guests:
I always say that at the Department of Foreign Affairs we are not paid for our looks but for our skills in diplomacy. One skill that is a must in a diplomat’s toolkit is the ability to listen. The DFA listens, and in so doing we discover things that we can improve and those that are already good but could be made even better.
At the DFA we have always consciously pursued the enhancement of the consular services that we offer. We do our best to make them more accessible to the public. We continuously make efforts to streamline consular requirements as far as the law could take us. And we innovate to leverage technological advancements in making everything easier for the public we serve.
It was in 2016 when we opened ten Consular Offices around the Philippines in an effort to decentralize passport applications. Today, 36 COs later, one can apply for a passport from San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte in the north to General Santos City in the south. And we will open more. For as long as we have partners like SM Super Malls that provide facilities for our consular offices at no cost to the government, we will bring the DFA to where our people need us.
It is a fact, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic, which required us to implement health and safety protocols as mandated by the IATF, has limited our capacity so serve as many people as we used to. From the pre-pandemic level of 13,074 passport appointment slots per day, we are down to 6,167 daily because of the social distancing and staff rotation that we need to observe for everyone’s health and safety. This, in turn, has given rise to a high demand for passport appointment slots, and as the clamor for more slots heightened, we listened. And we acted.
Today, we are opening five Temporary Offsite Passport Servicing offices in Metro Manila as a response to our people’s call. These satellite sites, located at SM Mall of Asia, SM North EDSA, SM Aura, Robinsons Magnolia and Robinsons Las Pinas, offer 2,500 more slots per day, Mondays to Saturdays. From today until the end of September, these TOPS would have offered an additional 177,500 passport appointment slots to our people. If that is not enough, tell us and we will listen and act as only the DFA can.
In the succeeding weeks, we will open more satellite sites outside Metro Manila to serve our kababayans in the provinces as their needs dictate. We will do that and more to ensure that every Filipino who needs one will be able to hold a Philippine passport, and thus benefit from having a secure, international convention-compliant identity and travel document that could take one places, be it for seeking greener pastures abroad or traveling for the pure joy of it.
To my colleagues at the DFA who worked hard to deliver this project to completion, and to our ever-reliable mall partners who are graciously hosting our TOPS offices, thank you on behalf of the Filipino people who will benefit from these efforts. Keep up the good work.