THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) launched Thursday its passport ePayment Portal to allow payment of passport processing fee anywhere and anytime as it opened tens of thousands of application appointment slots.
Through the ePayment Portal, passport applicants can prepay the processing fees through selected payment centers. Eventually, prepayment can be through debit and credit cards and through over-the-counter cash transactions in select banks.
“Not only will this new payment system be convenient since applicants can pay the fees anywhere, anytime; it will also help us maximize the capacity of our consular offices,” DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said.
Only 60 to 65 percent of applicants appear at DFA consular offices on their date of appointment under the old system, according to Cayetano.
“With ePayment, we expect that no-shows in our consular offices will be significantly reduced, if not totally eliminated. By prepaying, applicants are encouraged to show up lest they forfeit their passport processing fee,” Cayetano said.
The Secretary noted that ePayment tests at DFA Aseana in Parañaque City posted a show-up rate of 94-97 percent compared to the current 60-65 percent.
“With near 100 percent show-up rates and quicker turnaround of applicants at our consular offices, the DFA through ePayment will be able to serve more applicants daily, particularly those who need it the most,” Cayetano said.
In addition, ePayment will also nix fixers and scammers since the scheme requires applicants to pay the fee prior to their personal appearance at their consular office of choice. The appointment made is non-transferable.
“The ePayment portal has safeguards in place that will discourage and prevent unscrupulous individuals from hoarding passport appointment slots,” the Secretary said.
Applicants can pay the passport processing fee through any of the following payment centers: Bayad Center; EcPay; Pera Hub; Robinsons Business Center and Department Store; Walter Mart Department Store; 7-Eleven; USCC Western Union; and Villarica Pawnshop. Other payment centers as well as credit/debit card payment facility will be made available soon.
DFA Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Frank Cimafranca said the ePayment portal will initially apply for applications lodged at the DFA Aseana Consular Office beginning June and would be rolled out in Metro Manila in July and nationwide by August.
“The ePayment system is just one of the programs the DFA is introducing to improve people’s access to its passporting services,” Cimafranca said.
The DFA recently opened three consular offices in Tacloban City, Ilocos Norte, and Isabela, while six more consular offices will soon be opened in different parts of the country.
The DFA also rolled out its Passport on Wheels program early this year, which can process as many as 4,000 applications in different areas of the country daily. The program has so far served more than 122,000 applicants.
In addition, the DFA has implemented measures to accommodate more passport applicants, such as the opening of DFA Aseana on Saturdays, increasing the daily capacity of consular offices nationwide, expanding the courtesy lanes for overseas workers, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and other sectors, and continuing crackdown on fixers and scammers.
Meanwhile, the DFA opened 50,000 passport application slots on Thursday and another 50,000 slots on Friday.
A total 10,000 slots will also be opened daily from Mondays to Saturdays, except holidays, to accommodate more applicants, said Cayetano.