MANILA- Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano marked his first day in office on Friday by visiting the Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) in Pasay City.
Cayetano, upon arrival, went straight to the OCA waiting area where a big volume of passport applicants await their turn to enter the processing area.
The newly installed secretary talked to some of them and promised to improve the office's services as well as shorten the applicants' waiting period before they could process their passport.
Dennis de Jesus, president of the Liaison Officers Association, sees Cayetano's visit as a good development. The association represents 475 accredited travel agencies that process an average of 650 passports a day.
"Ang sabi lang nya, pag a-aralan muna yung sitwasyon ng mga travel industry. Ibigay muna yung kung ano yung mga nararamdaman muna. This is the best thing na nangyari po sa amin. Eto po yung unang-unang pagkakataon," he said.
De Jesus said that aside from better and faster service, they have also asked Cayetano to improve OCA facilities, especially a bigger roof for the waiting area.
Cayetano took note of the plight of overseas Filipino workers whose vacations are usually spoiled because of their need to process their passport.
Another aspect that he would like to address, he said, is the possibility of increasing the number of passport pages.
"Yung quick observations today. One, napakaraming tao and ang waiting period para to get an appointment is about two months and that's about 2,000 to 2,500 people a day, pwera pa yung walk-in. So if you do the simple math, then between 2,000 to 300,000 people pa ang immediately gustong magka-passport na naghihintay ng ganun katagal," he said.
Another remedy that Cayetano is considering is to ask government agencies like SSS, GSIS and PhilPost to put up a kiosk or machine at the consular office so applicants who will be having problems in producing government-issued identification cards (IDs) can easily rush to these agencies' booths for processing of their IDs.
The secretary begged off from answering queries about Malacanang's nullification of the government's printing contract with a private company , saying that he has yet to be briefed on the matter.