Convenience for a fee: DFA’s new passport appointment scheme

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An added convenience fee for the new online payment system of the Department of Foreign Affairs presents new problems. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

Some Filipinos criticized the added “convenience” fee in the new online passport facility of the Department of Foreign Affairs as “anti-poor.”

In April, the DFA announced that it would roll out the new ePayment Portal, which was first implemented at the DFA-Aseana office in Parañaque city, as a supposedly more convenient way to process passport applications and a solution to get rid of fixers.

After the Aseana office, the new system would have launched across Metro Manila this July, and to the rest of the country in August.

Not so convenient

Following complaints of lack of appointment slots and the DFA’s claims that the online system was defective, passport applicants are now required to pay an added P50 as convenience fee.

This was on top of the usual rates charged by the DFA—P1, 200 for expedite processing or P950 for regular processing—to confirm appointment slots.

One user questioned what the convenience was in paying more just to get an appointment.

DFA’s Twitter account was quick to respond that the fees were to “incentivize” people to show up on their appointment schedules.

“Good day, it will incentivize all the people, including hoarders of slots, to show up on the date of their appointments,” the agency replied.

The paid fees are neither refundable nor transferable, even if the applicant failed to show up on the appointment date, as stated in the DFA online guide.

In this new ePayment portal, applicants can pay to any of the following payment centers:

  • Bayad Center
  • EcPay
  • Pera Hub
  • Robinsons Business Center and Department Stores
  • Waltermart Department Store
  • 7-Eleven
  • USCC (Western Union)
  • Villarica Pawnshop

Other Twitter users also aired their own grievances.

To avoid fixers

There were 23 apprehended fixers last March, the latest count in the DFA’s crackdown on those offering passport appointment slots online.

The agency warned applicants that such social media posts are scams and that scheduling is “completely free.”

Based on its website, the DFA said that only applicants with confirmed schedules or those who have received an email after paying the fees will be catered.

Such assurance is stated among the benefits of the ePayment Portal, wherein

“It gets rid of fixers. Payment of the passport processing fee is a prerequisite before an applicant will be able to receive a confirmed appointment schedule. An applicant’s confirmed appointment schedule is non-transferable.” — Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos