x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Filipinos travelling to Abu Dhabi for passport renewal to skip backlog in Dubai

More than half of the Filipinos renewing their passports at the Philippine embassy in the capital travel all the way from Dubai and the northern Emirates to avoid the long daily queues at the Dubai consulate.

ABU DHABI // More than half of the Filipinos renewing their passports at the Philippine embassy in the capital are travelling from Dubai and the northern Emirates in an effort to avoid the long daily queues at the Dubai consulate.

On any given weekday the embassy in Abu Dhabi processes 120 applications - 70 from people living in Dubai and the northern Emirates. They are securing their appointments through a manual system introduced by the embassy on March 10, which requires applicants to submit their names, contact numbers and preferred appointment date.

Nova Manalili, 29, a cashier in Dubai and her colleague Aileen Odango, 28, travelled all the way from Dubai by bus to get to the embassy on Tuesday. Both did not have an appointment but the embassy processed their passports on the same day.

"It's more organised here," Ms Manalili said. "When I accompanied a friend at the consulate last December, she was given an appointment in February. I felt bad for her."

Ms Odango said she did not mind the two-hour wait to submit their applications. "We can even wait for five hours," she said.

"I just didn't think it would be a good idea to have my passport renewed at the consulate," said Blas Punzalan, 29, a document controller in Jebel Ali. "No one picks up the phone and we have to wait for two months to get an appointment."

At the embassy, he and a friend, Cris Medrano, 32, a restaurant supervisor in Dubai, waited for one and half hours before the staff allowed them to have their biometrics taken on the e-passport data-capturing machines.

The whole process took less than 30 minutes and both left the embassy at 10.30am.

Melita Bruno, 36, a lady driver in Al Ain for the past 10 years, was fuming when she failed to secure an appointment at the embassy at 10am on Tuesday. Her passport had expired the previous day.

"I came all the way from Al Ain," she said. "I didn't face any problems renewing my passport in the Philippines."

But Godofredo Abina, an embassy staff, managed to placate her by saying she could wait until 3pm to be accommodated. "Many Filipinos from the other emirates didn't have any appointment today, but they came in early and we processed their applications," he said.

Adelio Cruz, the charge d'affaires at the embassy, said staff were being pushed to process 20 more applications per day.

He said the embassy, which serves a community of about 120,000 Filipinos living in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, was helping the consulate by accepting applicants from Dubai and the northern Emirates.

The backlog in Dubai began late last year, as officials tried to keep up with the demands of serving the 400,000 Filipinos in Dubai and the Northern Emirates while producing the new electronic passports introduced last June.

Benito Valeriano, the consul-general at the consulate in Dubai, said he was aware that Filipinos in Dubai and the northern Emirates have been travelling to Abu Dhabi.

He said the consulate services a larger bulk Filipinos in the UAE with fewer staff than that of the embassy.

"The catchphrase is, at the end of the day, we are able to serve 200 passport applicants," Mr Valeriano said. "If people are just willing to wait, they will be accommodated."

rruiz@thenational.ae