Co-Sponsorship Speech: SBN 2001 under Committee Report No. 43

Co-Sponsorship Speech on SBN 2001 under Committee Report No. 43

New Philippine Passport Act

Mr. President, 

According to the Henley and Partners Passport Index for the 1st quarter of 2023, the Philippine Passport ranked 78th among the 199 countries surveyed. The Passport Index ranks the world’s passports according to the number of destinations passport holders can access without a prior visa, giving us an idea on global access and mobility. Our Philippine Passport may not be the most powerful, but we should at least make it more accessible for the populace.

While for some, the passport allows one to travel abroad for leisure, para sa 4.3 milyong[1] documented migrant workers, it is more than just a mere travel document, it is a means for a better life overseas— a chance to provide a better life for loved ones back home. Also, it is an official ID, which means more people can access basic services and have the ability to participate in the economy.

Mr. President, it is very timely that we amend Republic Act 8239, otherwise known as the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, which will turn 27 years old this year. We need to upgrade our passport law to make it more adept to the times where digitalization is at the forefront of modernization. 

One important feature of this bill is that it mandates the Department of Foreign Affairs to implement a system wherein senior citizens and migrant workers abroad don’t need to physically appear in a consular office for passport renewal, through the use of available technology, as far as practicable. 

With this bill, Mr. President, we are simplifying requirements for obtaining a passport. This bill will also provide a 20% discount on passport fees for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. 

Even with a new measure on the Philippine Passport, this August chamber under the guidance of our good sponsor, Senator Imee Marcos, has ensured that this will not result in exorbitant fees. Reasonable fees shall be collected for the processing and issuance of a passport or a travel document. Further, the fee shall not be increased more than once every three (3) years. 

In RA 8239 Mr. President, the DFA was allowed to charge a 250-peso fee for the processing and issuance of passports beyond regular office hours. These fees constituted the Passport Revolving Fund. But Mr. President, that was almost 27 years ago, the value of 250 pesos has dwindled down to 83 pesos. Allowing DFA to retain not more than 20% of the gross annual collection will strengthen the financial capacity of the department, allowing them to provide better passporting and consular services.

To provide better accessibility, the DFA, with the assistance of concerned agencies, is mandated to establish an online application portal and electronic one-stop shop readily accessible on its official website to facilitate convenience of application and ease in gathering and submission of requirements. Also, the DFA will arrange for the ease and expeditious application and renewal of passports for senior citizens, PWDs, pregnant women, OFWs, and individuals with emergency and exceptional cases through the creation of special lanes. From the months of March to June, arrangements will also be made to expedite application and renewal of passports for our muslim brothers and sisters who will go on the annual hajj pilgrimage. 

In the 17th Congress Mr. President, this Senate sought to extend the validity of the passport, extending it from five (5) years to ten (10). This time Mr. President, apart from extending its validity, we have ensured that the Philippine Passport will be more accessible while also strengthening the DFA’s capacity to provide better and higher quality services that will benefit the people. 

We call on our colleagues to support this measure, which is seen to benefit initially 4.8 million[2] applicants targeted for this year, including our dependable OFWs working hard to bring a better life for their family.

 Maraming salamat, Mr. President. 

[1] Department of Foreign Affairs Report to Congress on Assistance-to-Nationals, January to June 2022

[2] GAA FY 2023, DFA’s 2023 Target for Passports Issued