MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) inaugurated yesterday its first satellite consular office in Metro Manila at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.
The satellite office is on the seventh floor of the newly constructed Building C of the shopping mall.
DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis and SM Prime Holdings Inc. president Hans Sy led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the DFA-NCR East.
Officials of the DFA and other government agencies; Mandaluyong City government, led by Mayor Benhur Abalos; and the SM Group of Companies, led by SM Supermalls president Annie Garcia, also attended the inauguration.
“The opening of DFA-NCR East is the continuing fruition of the President and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs’ commitment to bringing world class and convenient service to the public,” Seguis said.
“For the DFA, today’s event is special to us not only because we are opening a new consular office, but also because today, we are reaffirming our commitment to improve our passport services and to bring our services closer to the public,” he said.
The DFA will open more satellite offices in shopping malls nationwide under the public-private partnership program (PPP) of the Aquino administration.
DFA consular offices have previously opened at the Pacific Mall in Mandaue, Cebu; Robinsons Star Mills Mall in San Fernando, Pampanga; and Marquee Mall in Clark, Pampanga.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Sy signed last Jan. 16 a memorandum of agreement for the hosting in SM malls of five consular offices nationwide.
It will cover the transfer and hosting of consular offices in Davao, Baguio and Batangas and the opening of extension offices at the SM City in Manila.
The DFA said the PPP agreement with SM would result in more than P1 billion in savings for the government while achieving its objective of bringing consular services closer to the public.
Starting tomorrow, 1,000 applicants with scheduled appointments and senior citizens with valid proof of age will be accommodated at the DFA-NCR East.
The satellite office is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays, for both processing and releasing. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays for releasing only.
To schedule an appointment, applicants may log on to www.passport.com.ph or www.megamall.passport.com.ph or call (02) 737-1000. DFA-NCR East will also provide authentication services to the public.
Del Rosario has given the Office of Consular Affairs until Dec. 31 to put in place a dedicated call center that would allow passport applicants to choose the date and time they would like to be accommodated in any DFA consular office nationwide.
Under the new DFA guidelines, the DFA should have opened the first 13 consular offices in Metro Manila and other key cities and finish negotiations for similar arrangements in other parts of the country before the end of the year.
Del Rosario also ordered the decentralization of authentication services and to make this service available in Metro Manila and San Fernando, Pampanga; Cebu, and Davao.
The guidelines also cover the conduct of special and mobile passport services and the accreditation of travel agencies that would allow them to continue assisting applicants until Dec. 31.
Del Rosario said the DFA has no plans of increasing its passport fees, which are currently pegged at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.