MANILA–Philippine travel agencies on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to allow the sector to process passports and not just passport renewals.
The DFA previously allowed the sector to only process passport renewals. However, after holding continuous discussions that started in the fourth quarter of 2016, the sector was eventually given the green light to continue.
Travel agency group, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), said that passport processing helps keep business operations going. PTAA has over 500 member travel agencies across the country.
PTAA president Marlene Jante expressed gratitude to DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Frank Cimafranca for understanding the impact of passport processing to travel agencies.
“This is not just a victory for the PTAA and its members but for other travel agencies affiliated with other organizations as well,” Jante said.
She explained that passport processing, both for new applicants and renewals, contributes at least 15 percent to a travel agency’s revenue.
She said that if passport processing is taken out, travel agencies, especially the smaller ones, are at risk of closing operations.
PTAA members have been handling anywhere between 1,200 to 1,800 passport processing applications daily since 2008.
Jante, since she assumed office in January, said she has been attending regular dialogues with the DFA that was started by her predecessor Maria Michelle Reyes-Victoria to ensure that travel agencies’ rights to process passport applications remain.
She further said that even before other travel organizations voiced their concerns, the PTAA was already working quietly with the DFA to resolve the issue.
“We have always maintained our mandate fostering unity in the travel industry while also promoting the welfare of its stakeholders and the traveling public,” Jante said.
Jante said they have explained to the DFA that under the implementing rules and regulations of the Passport Act of 1996, travel agencies are legally allowed to process passport applications and ensure that all documents submitted are true, correct, genuine and authentic.
“We made our position clear and the DFA realized we were correct. There is a pre-screening process and travel agencies are very much liable if they fail to submit the proper documents to them,” Jante said.
She also assured that the PTAA will continue to work closely with the DFA to ensure that all Filipinos will own a passport.
The PTAA has been one of the constant resource groups both houses of Congress have approached towards a possible amendment to the Passport Act that will extend passport validity to 10 years.