Six Philippine travel agencies associations have joined forces in a bid to restore their passport processing services, which the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) temporarily shelved in July last year.
The coalition comprises the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA), Philippine IATA Agents Travel Association (PIATA), Network of Independent Travel Agencies (NITAS), National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS), Central Luzon Association Organization of Accredited Travel Agents (CLOATA) and Pampanga Agents Travel Society.
The associations said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that “the solution is to apportion the responsibility and not to block accredited travel agents from assisting the government”, especially as the DFA has acknowledged that it is going to face serious backlogs with the increase in passport applications.
The 1,000 daily passport processing allocation for the 276 DFA-accredited agencies was in 2012 reduced to a cap of 500, and in July last year completely removed with DFA citing the need to weed out unscrupulous individuals selling bogus appointments for passport processing.
But NITAS vice president Angel Ramos Bognot countered that “up to this date, no single travel agency was convicted of a crime against the sanctity of passport processing,” adding that agencies could not engage in such illegal activities given the stringent accreditation rules, US$4,000 surety bond and payment of passport fee prior to processing.
“NITAS, which has more than 300 members nationwide, suffered much from this unfair government action and resulted in the closure of some of its members”, Bognot emphasised.
DFA’s removal of agencies’ passport processing service came at a time when travel was entering its peak season last year, resulting “in loss of business” for many agencies as passport processing services made up 15 per cent of revenue stream for some members, according to PTAA president Marlene Jante.
“Even if agencies are still given the same 1,000 slots daily today, that would only be seven per cent of the total passports being processed by the DFA which is now at 14,000 daily”, added Jante.
PTAA executive vice president Patria Chiong urged the DFA to recognise the role of travel agencies in assisting travellers.
As well, CLOATA president Lerma Quiambao pointed out that outbound tour and corporate clients would usually request agencies to assist with their passport processing.
Bognot further underscored the service value that travel agencies offer to travellers in an archipelagic country, making it difficult for those in the provinces to apply for passports and meet the requirements of DFA, which are subject to change from time to time.