My passport only expires in 2012 but I’ve already used up all pages except for the last one. I’ve already planned to go to the Philippine Embassy in KL at Jalan Changkat Kia Peng but thought of checking their website first, just in case of any changes in application procedures and requirements. True enough, there was a notice about the introduction of machine-readable passports (MRP).
The first change is quite minor — the passport photo now needs to use royal blue or dark blue as the background, instead of white, and “preferably” should be printed using matte (not glossy) paper. But I warn you: for the Philippine Embassy in KL, they’ve made the “preferably” mandatory and won’t accept any glossy photos. If you’re in KL and need to have your photo taken, go to Fotokem at Ampang Park and they’d know what to do.
The fee for the new 44-page MRP “remains unchanged” at RM192.50. No big news for me. But for Filipinos back home, that’s like robbery in broad daylight. Because RM192.50′s equivalent in Philippine pesos is approximately P2,310. Shocking, huh? The same passport only costs P500 if done in the Philippines. Why should hard-working overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and expats be charged exhorbitantly given that they (we) send back so many millions of pesos in remittances every year?
Anyhow, I scrolled down to read the rest of the information… and got the shock of my life when got to the part that said:-
“Due to the transition phase in the implementation of the new passport system, the processing period for the MRP, which will be done in Manila, will take approximately thirty (30) calendar days.”
Thirty. Calendar. Days. Unbelievable!
So I called up the Embassy (03-21489989) to verify what the website says.
“Totoo po, Ma’am. Minsan nga, hindi lang four weeks. Five weeks. It’s out of our control kasi sa Maynila po ang processing.” (It’s true, Ma’am. Sometimes, it’s not just four weeks. Five weeks. It’s out of our control because the processing is done in Manila.)
Still not totally satisfied, I checked the Department of Foreign Affairs’ official website to find out more information about the MRP if done in the Philippines. Normal processing time is 14 days at P500; expedited processing is 7 days at P750. For applications from KL, expedited processing is not applicable.
Your passport will remain valid while your new one is being processed; once the new passport is ready, only then will they cancel your old passport.
To say that the long wait is inconvenient is grossly understating it. Malaysia also uses machine-readable passports and it only takes an hour to process! I know so first-hand because DH, RoundBoy and I went to Immigration (Malaysia) a few months back to get RoundBoy’s passport renewed. And it took only an hour from the time we handed in the application form until they called my son for this thumbprint until the time they issued his new passport.
[NB: The only difficulty in applying for passports in Malaysia is that the father must be present upon application and every subsequent renewal until the child turns 18. By difficult, I refer to separated couples and for fathers who are always travelling, like my husband!] So if you’re a Filipino and your passport is expiring soon, better renew it early, especially if you’re overseas right now.
Click here to see the Department of Foreign Affairs’ step-by-step instructions on applying for an MRP.
Update: 27 Feb 2011: The Philippines now uses an electronic passport. Once I renew my passport, I shall create a blog post about the process.