DFA to open 10 more TOPS before end of 2021

September 24, 2021 Cristina Lee-Pisco 489 views

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday said it is set to open 10 more temporary offsite passport services (TOPS) centers nationwide before the end of 2021 to accommodate the growing number of daily passport applicants.

Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) Assistant Secretary Senen Mangalile, in a virtual press conference said “we’re thinking of opening three in the National Capital Region — one in Manila, one in Novaliches and one in Fairview. What we want for the next few TOPS to be opened is that they are located outside NCR to give other applicants the chance to renew their passports nearby.”

TOPS venues in provinces will be in Cebu, Davao City, Iloilo, Pangasinan, Lipa in Batangas, and San Pedro in Laguna.

“So, we expect to see about 17 operating before the end of the year at hopefully mabigyan kami ng budget ng kongreso para maipagpatuloy ang programang ito (hopefully the Congress could provide us the budget to continue this program),” Mangalile said.

Each temporary offsite will be able to process a maximum of 500 daily applications.

Mangalile said the slots in all consular offices and the seven existing sites have already been filled.

However, he stressed they will soon open more slots in the coming months on a staggered manner.

“Maraming nagsasabi na wala na tayong passport appointments hanggang 2022, hindi po totoo ‘yon hindi pa lang natin binubuksan ‘yung slots for October, November at December,” he said.

Mangalile said this is aimed to prevent the so-called “professional appointment setters” from taking ĺthe slots.

The DFA is also working to ease the long lines at its Aseana office.

On Thursday night, the DFA issued an advisory saying passports would be released at Islas Pinas in Double Dragon from Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays), from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

DFA-Aseana is currently getting long lines of applicants following the transfer of appointments from consular offices in Metro Manila to the main office after some of its personnel tested positive for coronavirus.

The situation was aggravated by the large number of applicants who were personally picking up their passports at the Aseana following the severance of relations with DFA’s courier service provider.

The OCA said over 2,000 passports were rendered undeliverable due to erroneous addresses or the lack of authorization letters from applicants who were not personally present at their declared addresses.

These passports were then turned over to the DFA for release to the applicants themselves, the DFA said.

“The Office of Consular Affairs is doing its best to serve clients in a timely manner, and there is no need to go to DFA Aseana very early in the morning to be able to avail of consular services within the day,” the Consular Office said.

Last year, the agency was only able to release around 1.7 million passports, a significant drop from the more than four million recorded in 2019.