Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Department of Foreign Affairs, and Passport.com.ph

Bus Route To Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Manila
Take any south-bound EDSA bus going to BACLARAN SIMBAHAN. The bus passes through Ayala Avenue, Buendia, and Buendia-Taft. It turns right into Roxas Boulevard from Buendia, and makes a stop in front of HK SUN CENTER. Get off at HK Sun Center. You'll see the MARITIME COLLEGE across the street, to the left of it is the DFA. Cross the street using the pedestrian bridge (you can't miss it! It's pink and blue!). When you get to the the other side, take a left, walk past the Maritime College, and you're there. For passport renewal and application, walk a bit more and take a right into a sidestreet that leads you to the back of the DFA.

REVIEW! Passport.Ph
My passport had just reached its expiry date, and I have more than a few travel plans in store for the next few years. I hate lines and running around for paperwork, so I took a chance on the DFA's official passport renewal system online. It helped that it boasted a partnership with 2go, a popular courier service. I've heard pretty positive reviews about the system, even from people wary of sending information online.

It's straightforward, no-nonsense procedure. First, click the 'Requirements' Page. It will list the documents you need to submit. When you get those documents together, you can click the 'Apply Now!' link, and fill in the blanks. After applying, it will suggest dates for pick-up, personal appearance, and delivery of your passport. You may adjust them as you wish, then submit.

It does not end there. The system will have someone pick up your documents and later deliver your new passport, but you still need to make a Personal Appearance before that. Identities are right up there in the black market, so it's a necessary security measure. (Think, 'Catch Me If You Can' and Frederick Forsythe-ish suspense scenarios. Those only work if you're in Hollywood, baby.)

I had to reschedule pick-up of my requirements as I didn't have the hefty PHP1,300 needed to cover courier, insurance, and processing. I had to call the hotline a few times to reschedule, and I got to send the documents on the rescheduled date without a hitch. My personal appearance was also moved due to a May holiday, and it was the hotline call center agents that rang me up to kindly inform me of this change. Yay, personable people!

The DFA itself still has the pains of government bureaucracy. For my personal appearance, the website says I could come in at any time, but I wasn't sure where I was supposed to go. I asked a guard but he demanded an exact time, and just had me line up with the rest of them when I said I didn't have any.

The line instead leads to a bazaar area filled with courier and passport services, with rush xerox and IDs for those who needed to cram their requirements. Thankfully, there was a 2go booth there, who instructed me to look for their rep at Gate 3. At gate 3 I was alarmed to find out I needed a receipt to be taken seriously, but the verifying question given to me was -- "How much did you pay?". If you answer correctly, they look at their clipboard and find your name. From there, it was passed on to another rep who accompanied me inside the waiting and release area. I finalized my papers a little while after, and was told that my new shiny passport will be delivered in 10 business days.

The personal appearance and identity verification took about an hour. 2go did its job in assisting and mailing, but there's still some confusion from the on-field employers in DFA as regarding online applicants.

In all, I can't imagine doing the red-taped-chicken dance of panic through this process. Kudos to DFA and 2go for making this happen, I gave it a 5 out of 5 in their post-service evaluation and would recommend it to anyone looking to apply or renew their passport.

Happy trails!


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