As President Duterte is "days, if not hours away" from signing a law doubling the period of validity of the Philippine passport to 10 years, a senator reminded the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Senate's "clear intent" that fees of the new passports be retained at their present rates.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said if "the same materials and the number of passport pages are retained ", then there is "zero basis" to jack up the cost.
Recto said he is worried about "some DFA unofficial chatter" that the 10-year passport will be twice the cost of the present one.
At least one DFA official, from its Consular Affairs Office, has been quoted in the news as saying that the cost of a 10-year passport might double if there will be additional pages made of sturdier paper.
"I hope that such speculative statement does not represent the official thinking of the DFA leadership," Recto said.
"An important matter that will affect 30 million passport holders in the next 30 years is best left to the collective decision of DFA officials with higher pay grades," Recto said.
He said only a fraction of Filipino travelers, "and these are the jetsetters, who will be needing more than the present 39 stampable pages of passport space."
"So I think the present 44-page passport can be retained. But for frequent travelers, the DFA can just issue a version with more pages, and with a different price," Recto said.
Recto said "the established rule in setting fees for government-issued documents is that whatever charges imposed should merely recover the cost in processing and producing them."
"In short, passport fees to be retained by the DFA must be just enough to recoup expenses in rendering this public service," he explained.
"That is why if you will examine the price structure of one ordinary Philippine passport expressly processed, of the P1,200, only P250 goes to the DFA," he said.
While on paper, the DFA's passport income of P4.1 billion in 2015 appears to be huge, it merely reflected the collected amount, the bulk of which had been remitted to the passport producers, he added.
Congress had sent to Duterte for his signature a bill amending Section 10 of Republic Act 8239 or the Philippine Passport Act of 1996 by extending the validity of regular passports for a period of 10 years.
However, under the measure, individuals below 18 years of age will only be issued a five-year passport.
Recto is one of the authors of the measure having filed a bill and sponsored the consolidated measure on the Senate floor. He is also one of the pioneers in the campaign for a passport with a longer expiry.
"Unfortunately, while chips have already been embedded into our passports during that time, common sense had a hard time penetrating the heads of those to whom we had addressed our appeals," he recalled in his sponsorship speech.
"So finally, of all the passport-related apps ever invented, the most needed, which is a longer legal shelf life, is now provided in this bill," he said.
Source: Senate of the Philippines