The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will work on a more permanent solution to address passport demands, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. assured the public on Monday.
The Secretary gave the assurance during the official launch of the Passport on Wheels mega vans at the SM Seaside in Cebu.
“The DFA is working on a more permanent and long-term solution, which is the opening of additional consular offices all over the country, including Cebu and other places in the Visayas,” Secretary Locsin said.
Secretary Locsin boasted about the mega-van’s capabilities during the opening ceremonies attended by representatives of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, APO Production Unit Inc., SM Supermalls, Cebu Government officials and the local media.
“It is fast, efficient, resilient, and accessible, service qualities that we in the DFA value and uphold. It can traverse whatever terrain and reach remote places in the country to make sure that the Filipino’s constitutional right to travel is not just a pipe dream but a convenient reality,” Secretary Locsin said.
Each van has eight data capturing machines that can process as many as 1,000 applicants per day or twice the capacity of a regular POW van. Enabled with mobile wi-fi connection, it allows the DFA to conduct mobile passport services even in areas with no regular IT facilities.
According to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Neil Frank Ferrer, the said feature will allow the mega vans to service municipalities that lack the proper facilities to host a regular POW mission. He said the mega vans are heavy-duty vehicles designed to reach even far-flung and mountainous municipalities.
The POW mega vans are stationed at the SM Seaside City in Cebu and will process passport applications from Mondays to Saturdays for the entire month of February. The Cebu POW was arranged with the support of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Diño.
The DFA launched the POW program in 2018 with an initial fleet of eight regular POW vans that visited a total of 284 sites, mostly underserved municipalities, and issued a total of 216,058 passports.
The POW is one of several reforms initiated during the term of then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano aimed at easing the backlog in passport appointments that could take as long as three months.
Beginning November, passport appointments could now be secured in as early as three working days.