DFA’s consular building formally inaugurated

March 23, 2010 10:30 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 23 — The Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) building of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was formally inaugurated on Monday evening, with representatives from key government agencies and the diplomatic corps in attendance, led by DFA Secretary Alberto G. Romulo.

On the same evening, Patricia Sto. Tomas, chairperson of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) was presented the Presidential Order of Lakandula, with Rank of "Bayani."

As DBP chairperson, Sto. Tomas was credited for providing the DFA with the lease purchase agreement for the OCA building.

The 7,000-square meter land and the building, plus other equipment — totalling P530 million — was acquired with DBP assistance.

Presidential Medals of Merit were given to Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Undersecretary Pilita Venturanza and Assistant Secretary Lynn Danao-Moreno, both of the Office of the President, and DFA-OCA Assistant Secretary Renato Villapando.

The four-storey OCA building, also known as the ASEANA Business Park, is on Bradco Avenue corner D. Macapagal Boulevard on reclaimed land a few blocks from the main DFA headquarters on Roxas Boulevard.

The new facility will be the home of the ePassport, the electronic authentication system, the electronic visa system, and digitalized consular records system.

Romulo also mentioned the major role of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in DFA’s passport program.

“The BSP has been our partner for almost 25 years. They were there in 2004, when we prepared to shift to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)-compliant machine readable passport (MRP), and to the MRP implementation in 2007. When the DFA decided to take it a notch higher and shift to the ePassport in 2008, they were also there to assist us, until we finally implemented the issuance of ePassport last year,” Romulo explained.

”Because of these,” he said, “the DFA is ready to better serve Filipinos.” At least 4,000 applications for passports alone are processed daily at the new site since it opened on March 8.

“We have modernized our consular services through the assistance of key government agencies, who helped us in this effort,” he said, citing the BSP, DBP particularly its President Reynaldo David, and the DPWH.

“They (applicants) do not need to come to Manila to get a passport or avail of consular services. Instead, they could just go to any of our regional consular offices throughout the country and foreign embassies and consulates around the world to avail of the same efficient and comfortable services.

"We are even bringing our services closer to the Filipino people, as we have mobile passport services going to the barangays and municipalities,” Romulo said.

Among the other guests were retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar, and Mrs. Rosie Lovely Romulo.

Also present were Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimson, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel who is a member of the BSP-Monetary Board, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, and DFA officials

He told the guests that DFA is “working hard to put everything in place and fulfill our target of shortening the application process to 30 minutes.”

Meanwhile, the DFA reminds passport applicants to avail of the appointment system to ensure quick and comfortable service. Applicants can check the passport requirements and secure an appointment by logging in at www.passport.com.ph or calling hotline (02) 737-1000.

Applicants may also call the DFA helplines at telephone numbers (02) 831-8971, (02) 551-4437, (02) 551-4402, (02) 834-4855 and (02) 834-4424.

Applicants are no longer required to bring photographs since they will have their pictures taken using ePassport data-capturing machines.

Only those with confirmed appointments will be accommodated at the new facility. (PNA)

vcs/GJB

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