Getting a passport online has been known to be tedious and costly for some time now. And they blame it on the increasing number of applicants, mostly those who desire to work abroad, but not quite. It’s all due to the unscrupulous activities of a passport syndicate.
This was what APO Production Unit Inc. divulged recently to the Department of Foreign Affairs. They discovered how fixers block passport applications, delaying them to sometimes up to three months. Then they sell those application slots that take less time to process at exorbitant prices.
For instance, APO stumbled on some reserved 450 slots which were ready to be sold to passport applicants for P5,000 each. Desperate applicants often bite into this bait to secure travel documents fast. Dominic Tajon, APO sales manager, disclosed that these fixers make as much as P2.5 million from this scam.
The minimum charge is P5,000. But it could increase if the applicant wants an earlier date of passport application or renewal. However, APO will soon put an end to this corrupt practice.
“The days of fixers are numbered because the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has allowed APO Production to handle the end-to-end passport processing in the next two months,” Tajon said during an interview. .
Eventually the public can look forward to enjoying the ease in securing online appointments, Tajon assured applicants in the diplomatic corps interview last week. Improvements should start in September when all applicants from the old system would have been included.
Moreover, Tajon said the scam, likely perpetrated by a syndicate, was discovered through the help of information technology (IT) experts as they were installing the security program in the online passport application system of the DFA. It was installed on June 17.
DFA consular offices will also use a similar appointment system to spare applicants from the hassles of waiting in long lines, Charles Jose, DFA spokesperson, said.
“In Aseana, we will also see considerable improvement in getting online appointments once measures we’ve instituted a month or so ago start taking effect in August and September,” Jose revealed in a text message to Inquirer.
The DFA and APO signed a memorandum of agreement in October 15, 2015, allowing APO to operate the end-to-end passport system. This aims to provide electronic passports continually in accordance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which is a United Nations agency.
“A new security system has been installed last June 17 that scrutinizes the identity of applicants,” Tajon said.