DFA denies syndicate, opens more passport appointment slots

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Passport applicants at the DFA

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — Amid outrage over passport appointment schedules, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano denied there is a syndicate in cahoots with its employees.

"Kanina may nagtanong about the sindikato, we are not the NBI, nor are we the CIDG, but we're are not stupid. Alam namin if there's fertile ground for sindikato," he said in a media briefing after DFA launched the 10-year validity of passports.

[Translation: On the syndicates, we are not the National Bureau of Investigation nor are we the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, but we are not stupid. We'll know if there is a fertile ground for a syndicate to breed.]

He added, although there are no syndicates, it does not mean there are no fixers.

"Ihiwalay natin ang manloloko, fixer, sindikato. Ang sindikato ay may fixers at manloloko. Pwedeng may manloloko at fixer pero walang sindikato," he said.

[Translation: Separate the syndicates from fixers. There are fixers in syndicates. There can be fixers but no syndicates.]

Earlier this week, enraged netizens called on the Department DFA to fix its system after their website showed the schedule to get a passport is full until March. Some alleged that "syndicates" who hoard passport appointment schedules to sell at sky-high prices are behind the DFA fiasco.

READ: Filipino travelers call out DFA for fully-booked passport appointment schedule

Some travelers also said travel agencies are selling appointment schedules for as high as P7,000.

Cayetano said it's impossible for travel agencies to sell appointment slots because DFA has barred them from getting slots in September to "remove the opportunity for a creation of a syndicate."

"Wala pong ibebenta na slots ang travel agency dahil tinanggal na namin ng ilang buwan na yung 1,200 a day," he said.

Cayetano added they have removed 50,000 bogus passport appointments last year.

"We are removing the possibility of a syndicated panloloko. It does not erase the fact na may nanloloko pa rin at may nakakalusot," he said.

He added they have not received any formal complaints, but the National Bureau of Investigation has been looking into the allegations.

Cayetano reminded the public setting an appointment for passport should be free of charge.

"Huwag kayo magbayad. Wala dapat bayad ang appointment," he said.

More passport slots

Cayetano acknowledged there are existing challenges in the passport application and renewal processing, especially in securing an appointment online.

To be able to accommodate applicants while ensuring the security of the website, they only open slots every three months. The next opening of of appointment schedules is in April.

But due to the volume of demand, Cayetano said they are opening more slots for February and March.

"We only open three months at a time kasi iniisa-isa namin kung tunay yung pangalan. Only 70% na naglalagay ng pangalan ang dumadating. Yung 30% for one reason or the other- or whether naglagay tapos binebenta ang slot, hindi dumadating," he said.

The Foreign Affairs Chief also said they are opening nine new consular officers this year, mostly in the regions, to address the increased demand. They are also looking to build up their Aseana branch in Pasay to increase its capacity from 1,900 to 3,300 passport appointments daily.

DFA has also deployed four Passporting on Wheels (POW) vehicles to decongest the consular offices in Metro Manila. Each POW has the capacity to process over 500 applicants daily, creating a total of 2,000 additional daily slots upon its launch.