Press Release
May 3, 2017

Co-Sponsorship Speech of Senator Cynthia Villar

Senate Bill No. 1365 (Extending Philippine Passport Validity) under Committee Report No. 45



Mr. President and my distinguished colleagues in the Senate. Good afternoon.

Our Constitution guarantees our countrymen's right to travel. We should indeed have the freedom to move around and even leave the country for whatever valid purpose we may have. We could only be prevented by the government from leaving the country only if there is a statutory basis for it; and the grounds are limited only to matters of national security, public safety or public health.

The government thus issues passports in order to ensure that we could exercise our right to travel abroad as almost all countries require passports bearing visas from those entering their territories. If the process of issuance or renewal of passports becomes too cumbersome or slow to Filipinos who urgently need them, especially our Overseas Filipino Workers, then their right to travel is effectively impaired. Adverse consequences may include lost opportunities to have gainful employment or seek greener pastures.

It is thus my privilege to co-sponsor a bill that if passed into law will provide much needed relief to our countrymen, particularly the Overseas Filipino Workers who have jobs waiting for them abroad. I am pleased to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 1365 under Committee Report No. 45 entitled "AN ACT EXTENDING THE VALIDITY OF PHILIPPINE PASSPORTS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE SECTION 10 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8239, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE "PHILIPPINE PASSPORT ACT OF 1996," AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES"

While the bill is plain and simple, it is decidedly beneficial to the travelling public. The bill seeks to assure the government's protection of the right to travel for a duration of ten years from the current five years by amending Section 10 of RA 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996. Section 10 essentially states that the validity of a passport is only five years from the date it was issued. However, as currently practiced, a passport's validity is actually less than five years because travel abroad is often disallowed for one with a passport that will expire in 6-months' time or less.

In order to make travel abroad easier for the OFWs, the bill simply extends the validity of regular passports to 10 years, although the 5-year validity of passports of minors or those individuals under 18 years old is being retained. A minor's passport should indeed be renewed every 5 years because a minor's facial changes while growing up. An adult's facial features basically remain the same for longer periods; hence the renewal of an adult's passport every 10 years is apt. At any rate, the Department of Foreign Affairs is authorized to limit the period of validity to less than the regular validity period when the interest of national security, public safety or public health calls for it.

One may question the necessity of extending the validity of passports to ten years. The solution one may say is perhaps merely to further streamline the requirements for the issuance or renewal passports, to open additional offices, to hire additional personnel or to procure more machines needed in passport production. The process, which in my opinion is already streamlined, still involves the preparation and submission of documents that will be visually evaluated by DFA personnel. Opening additional office spaces, hiring additional personnel and procuring more machines obviously take time and will not immediately translate to solving the problem of long lines of waiting applicants.

The DFA reports that there are 868 of its personnel nationwide who are involved in the processing of passports. In 2016, they were processing 3,123,004 applications for new passports, renewals or replacements of lost passports. The DFA issued 3,102,278 passports in 2016, leaving approximately 20,000 applications that are perhaps still being evaluated together with new applications submitted in 2017. From 2010 to 2016, there has been a 29.3% annual growth of passport issuances. With an ever-increasing population having an ever-increasing capacity or need to travel abroad, the human factor still delays the process to a certain extent.

The extension of the validity of Passports to ten years is necessary for a number of reasons. I mentioned some of them earlier. As other countries, such as the USA and Canada, already issue passports that are valid for 10 years, the DFA does not oppose the proposal to increase the validity of passports from the present 5 years to 10 years.

In a committee hearing in the House of Representatives, Migrante International has expressed its approval of this legislative measure. Migrante acknowledges that the extension of the validity period to 10 years will lengthen the OFWs opportunity to enjoy and exercise their constitutional rights, will make them more productive at work and will provide them more time to enjoy with their families.

Going back then to the predicament of our OFWs, the government's focus should be to find ways to make it easier for them to find jobs and get to their employers abroad. We owe a lot to our OFWs. They keep our economy afloat with their remittances of approximately $50 billion annually. Giving them a 10-year guarantee on their right to travel abroad will certainly be a great help to them.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte acknowledges the importance of this legislative measure. In his first State of the Nation address on July 25, 2016, he mentioned the necessity of stretching the validity of passports from the current 5 to 10 years. He deplored the situation of passport applicants he observed in Davao. There were long lines of applicants, some lying down on the pavement. Some even started lining up the night before, slept on the pavement overnight so that they will be the first ones to be served by DFA in the morning.


Given the foregoing, Mr. President and my esteemed colleagues, I certainly look forward to your swift approval of Senate Bill No. 1365 under Committee Report No. 45.

Maraming salamat po and magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!

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