x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi to launch phone applications for passport renewals

Filipinos applying for electronic passports may soon book an appointment over the phone, removing the need to visit their embassy in Abu Dhabi. Many Filipinos, however, want the embassy to introduce an online passport appointment.

ABU DHABI // Filipinos applying for electronic passports may soon be able to book an appointment over the phone.

The embassy in Al Bateen processes 135 to 150 applications for new passports each working day.

Since March 2011 Filipinos have had to queue at the embassy to sign on for a preferred date to return and submit personal information. It can take up to four months to secure an appointment.

But the system is about to change, said Roseny Fangco, vice consul at the Philippine embassy.

“When we transfer to a new villa we hope to implement an appointment system by phone,” Ms Fangco said. “We are also studying the online appointment of the Philippine consulate in Dubai.”

Junel Villanueva, 38, a document controller at Habshan, about 150 kilometres from Abu Dhabi city, said it made sense to have an online appointment service.

“It’s such a hassle and a waste of time to visit the embassy just to book an appointment,” Mr Villanueva said. “I know people queue as early as 4.30am to secure an appointment.”

He booked an appointment on February 12 but was asked to return this month to renew his passport.

The embassy would like to implement a system that addresses the needs of its clients, and not just one that works for convenience, said Ms Fangco.

“At the moment we are bypassing the appointment system for clients in the event of an emergency and for those who are in danger of losing their jobs,” she said.

“By experience, there are so many of them.

“They need to have their passports renewed to enable a new sponsor to process their visas.

“We don’t want to have an online appointment system that is not as flexible as our current system.”

“We try to balance the needs for our clients,” Ms Fangco said.

“It might appear the system of accepting walk-ins has not been very orderly but many have benefited from it.”

Betty Moral, 42, a housemaid in Abu Dhabi, welcomed the phone application plans.

“My employer tried to call the embassy but couldn’t get through,” Ms Moral said.

“I had to visit the embassy since my passport will expire on May 28. I got an appointment on September 22.”

Ms Fangco said: “We hope our countrymen will understand our embassy’s limitations – personnel, facilities, machines and budget.

“We advise them not to wait until the last minute to renew their passports since the turnaround time for passports is about two months.”

rruiz@thenational.ae