MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has asked the House of Representatives for additional budget to finance additional consular office in Canada, which has been left out of their approved budget for 2016.
DFA Sec. Albert del Rosario said that the agency is seeking to open a new consulate in Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where many Filipinos are reportedly living.
Three other regional offices in Dumaguete City, Tarlac City, and Calasiao in Pangasinan are being eyed by DFA next year, but was stricken out by the Department of Budget and Management from the approved allocation under the national spending plan.
Del Rosario explained to House members of the committee on Appropriations that the new consular office and the three new local units would need Php74.5 million in funding.
The DFA has a total of 84 foreign service posts and 19 regional offices in the Philippines, 13 of them in malls.
The DFA is poised to get a Php20.6 billion fund for 2016 based on the National Expenditure Program pending in Congress. This is 58% higher than the current year’s Php13 billion allocation.
However, the agency is looking at an additional budget proposal of Php766.9 million.
Del Rosario explained that the bulk of the increase is meant for upgrades in passport processing.
“The budget under MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) was increased in order to finance the improvement of the DFA passport system with a total price tag of Php2.8 billion,” the DFA secretary pointed out.
But on top of this amount, the agency is asking for an additional Php300 million to fully carry out the system upgrade.
“While budget for the overhaul of the passport system has been included… provisions for the purchase of necessary supplies, including proper ink, passport application form, visa stickers, authentication supplies, were not,” the Cabinet official said in lobbying for a budget increase.
The DFA Office of Consular Services said they are in the “final stages” of discussions to put up a new e-passport system with the government’s APO Production Unit (APO), which is eyed to replace the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as the country’s passport provider.
While the contract with APO has not yet been signed, passport printing remains under the helm of the BSP, which supplies blank booklets; and the DFA, which prints the personal details for each applicant.
An additional Php200 million fund is also being sought to provide for a cultural diplomacy program for migrant workers.