Making Revenge Travel More Accessible for Every Juan: The New Philippine Passport Act

Christianna Manami Y. Salud

After being held back by virtue of the global pandemic, “revenge travel” is a consequential trend resulting from border openings as well as lifting of travel restrictions. Filipinos, as a matter of course, will maximize this window of opportunity. To aid in easing travel for Filipinos, Republic Act. No. 11983 or the New Philippine Passport Act was enacted on 11 March 2024, which aims to streamline the processes for the issuance and renewal of Philippine passports.

Before the effectivity of the New Philippine Passport Act up to present, applications for the issuance and renewal of passports in the Philippines were submitted in person in any of the Department of Foreign Affairs (“DFA”) consular offices or satellite offices. To be able to submit an application, it is required that an online appointment be made prior through the DFA website. Once the applicant has chosen his or her preferred DFA consular office or satellite office, as well as the date and time, the applicant must bring the complete documentary requirements, both original and photocopies thereof. Seeing the resulting circumstances brought about by the revenge travel influx, among the key provisions of the New Philippine Passport Act are: Section 18, which introduces the concept of an Online Application Portal and an Electronic One-Stop Shop; and Section 19, which establishes offsite and mobile passport services in areas other than the consular offices and foreign service posts. The intention of both is to hopefully make passport services more accessible, even to the remotest of communities. Pursuant to the new law, the DFA is mandated to establish an online portal and an electronic one-stop shop to streamline and simplify the gathering and submission of documents for passport applications. Personal appearance of the applicant is still required, but only for biometric and biographic data capturing, which is done after the submission and evaluation of the documents. While these measures are still in its infancy stages and constantly undergoing refinement, we are expecting to see shorter and faster queues during personal appearances for passport applications because of the addition of offsite and mobile passport services.

The New Philippine Passport Act is also geared to make passport applications more accessible and inclusive by expanding the list of those eligible to use the courtesy or special lanes. Previously, courtesy or special lanes only accommodated senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant applicants, minors aged seven (7) years and below, solo parents, Overseas Filipino Workers, and applicants with exceptional and emergency cases. With the new law, the DFA is tasked to also arrange accommodations for Muslim Filipinos who intend to participate as pilgrims to the four (4) months long annual Hajj pilgrimage, commencing from the date provided in the official request by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

Finally, in an effort to curb the proliferation of fake or fraudulent passports, to safeguard Filipino passport holders from illegal confiscation, identify theft and forgery, and to prevent illegal possession of Filipino passports, the New Philippine Passport Act has updated and increased the penalties for such offenses. Any person or entity who, without any legal authority, confiscates or withholds a duly issued Filipino passport shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and shall pay a fine ranging from Php 1,000,000.00 to Php 2,000,000.00. Offenses relating to forgery, counterfeits, mutilation, and improper use of passports shall suffer imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and 1 day to fifteen (15) years and a fine ranging from Php 100,000.00 to Php 250,000.00. Offenses for illegal issuance of passports, false statements relating to passport applications, affidavits for lost or destroyed passports, are punishable with imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years and a fine ranging from Php 100,000.00 to Php 250,000.00. As a new inclusion of the law, offenses pertaining to unfair or discriminatory practices committed by the authorized passport-issuing authorities and personnel of the DFA shall be punished with administrative liability with six (6) months suspension for the first offense. For the second offense, they shall suffer administrative and criminal liability of dismissal from service, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and imprisonment of eighteen (18) months and one (1) day to six (6) years with a fine ranging from Php 100,000.00 to Php 250,000.00.

The New Philippine Passport Act signifies a meaningful step towards modernizing the travel documentation process in the country. By aligning with international standards and concurrently tightening security measures, we hope to see a more streamlined and efficient Philippine passport processing in order to give more Filipinos the opportunity to travel and explore the world.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not offered and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.

Christianna Manami Y. Salud is an Associate of the Immigration Department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW).

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