DFA eyes online passport renewal – via selfies – by 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is considering a system that will allow Filipinos to renew their passports online, with the help of selfies, by 2019.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano mentioned this in a hearing at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 6, about the delays in the passport application system.

Explaining this proposed technology, Cayetano said: "'Yung cellphone 'nyo, kukunan lang ng picture 'yung passport, and then magse-selfie ka. 'Yung face mo iko-compare sa passport, then we can mail you the passport already." 

(Using your cellphone, you'll have to take a photo of your passport, then take a selfie. Your face will be compared to the one on your passport, then we can mail you the passport already.)

"We're preparing the technology. We think next year will be the first time," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Unprecedented demand

Cayetano said the DFA cannot implement this yet because the former supplier, François Oberthur, turned over "obsolete" and "corrupted" data to the DFA. This required the DFA "to take the biometrics all over again."

"Once we have the biometrics, people can choose not to show up at our offices, and we can do the renewal online," Cayetano said.

He added that the DFA has employed other measures, such as removing 1,200 appointment slots previously reserved for travel agencies, to address passport delays. (READ: Philippines probes sale of passport endorsements)

According to Cayetano, the DFA is facing an unprecedented demand for passports. He pointed out that from 2016 to 2017, the number of passports produced rose by 602,806, or 19.38%.

This is higher compared to the 1.89% increase from 2015 to 2016, and 0.54% from 2014 to 2015.

Cayetano attributed the increase in demand to factors such as the "steady growth of the middle class," a "boom in international travel," the "increased availability of affordable airline options," and "attractive overseas employment opportunities for Filipinos." – Rappler.com