Senate approves 10-year passport validity bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — The Senate approved Monday on third and final reading the bill extending Philippine passport validity to 10 years.

Proponents said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are one of the main beneficiaries of the proposed amendment.

"This measure will certainly give comfort to our OFWs. Often, they have to file a leave from work for them to be able to travel back and forth to the nearest Philippine embassy or consular office to get their passports renewed," Senator Sonny Angara, one of the bill's authors, said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates OFWs at around 2.5 million, as of 2015.

Senate Bill 1365 or the Philippine Passport Act seeks to amend the 21-year-old Philippine Passport Act of 1996.

Under the bill, regular passports will be valid for 10 years, instead of the current five.

Only those who are under 18 years old will be issued passports valid for five years, according to the the proposed amendment.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are 27 different sites all over the country, where Filipinos can apply for their passport.

The Department of Foreign Affairs may also lessen the period of validity "whenever in the national economic interest or political stability of the country such restriction is necessary," according to the bill.

Senator Cynthia Villar, vice chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations and also one of the bill's sponsors, said Filipinos should have the "freedom to move around and even leave the country for whatever valid purpose" they have.

"We could only be prevented by the government from leaving the country if there is a statutory basis for it; and the grounds are limited only to matters of national security, public safety or public health," Villar said.

A counterpart bill, House Bill 4767, was passed on third and final reading in the House of Representatives last February 13.