Public clamor for the establishment of a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) consular office in Bohol has been ignited anew after the agency’s “Passport on Wheels” drew thousands of applicants at the Capitol with queues that stretched up to the streets surrounding the government compound.
Vilma Yorong, chief of the Bohol Employment and Placement Office (BPPO) which helped organize the registration of applicants, aired the need for a consular office amid the growing demand for passport services partly due to the province’s 23,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their families who also seek to go abroad.
“Mao na atong prayers karon na sooner makahimo na g’yud ta og DFA consular office diri sa Bohol and hasta sa atoang mga partner agencies sauna like PRC, PSA and LTFRB, naa na unta tay offices diri sa Bohol bisag satellite ra,” said Yorong.
The three-day registration for the “Passport on Wheels” started on Tuesday with the DFA supposedly allotting only 2,000 slots for applicants.
However, the DFA added 1,000 more slots due to the volume of applicants.
“Kami sa BEPO, we’ve been doing the Passport on Wheel since 2002 sa panahon pa ni Erico Aumentado, ang atong governor sauna, pero karon lang g’yud mi na shock nga ingon ani kadaghana and even myself cannot believe na ga back to back ang Capitol, sa front and back, daghan kaayo ang gapila,” said Yorong.
The “Passport on Wheels” was organized by the office of second district Rep. Vanessa Aumentado in coordination with the provincial government through the BEPO.
Meanwhile, netizens also aired their appeal for consular office in Bohol through a Facebook post of DYRD Bohol Ang Kasaligan which showed the throngs of applicants outside of the Capitol.
“Hinaot untag ma realize sa mga leader sa Bohol na ila na jong pa tukudan og DFA Building or branch ari diri, nga ing ana kadaghana ang gusto mukuha, mo renew og passport. Kung ing ana kadaghana modung sa Cebu, ang Ocean Jet ug Lite Shipping ray maka ginansya ug mga tindahan sa Cebu ang maka kuha sa kwarta sa mga Boholano,” said Christopher Gasnulac in one of the post’s hundreds of comments.
Ana Maria Mendoza, in the same post, also appealed for the provincial government to push for the opening of a consular office in the province.
“Panahon najud nga naa natay DFA office dre bohol. I know hatagan nig pagtagad ni Gov. Aris,” Mendoza said.
Yman Tagud shared the same insight.
“Yes, agree dapat naa ta DFA office dri sa bohol. Shout out sa atong goberno dri sa Bohol.Mga sir,ma’am unsay maayo kaha?” she said.
Earlier, first district Rep. Edgar Chatto announced that the DFA has approved the establishment of a consular office in Bohol after the province was found to have met the requirements set by the agency.
Following the approval, the DFA recommended the allocation of budget for the opening of the consular office.
In a memorandum, the Office of Consular Affairs proposed the allocation of P16.19 million for the establishment of the consular office for personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses, and capital outlay.
According to Chatto, allocation for the project will be included in the 2024 national budget as it was not itemized in the 2023 budget due to a delay in the issuance of the DFA’s recommendation.
Data from the DFA showed that a consular office in Bohol is projected to draw a clientele of 269, 400 individuals “in any given year,” surpassing the required 75,000 clients.
Revenues to be collected from the Bohol office is also seen to reach P230 million, which is beyond the required P71.25 million.
The DFA also requires that the proposed consular office will be able to accept, issue, and release at least 100,000 passports, authenticated documents, and consular records for the first year. Based on the DFA’s projection, the consular office in Bohol will also surpass this with the issuance of 242,420 passports.
Chatto clarified that it is not necessary for a law to be passed for the DFA to be allowed to open a consular office in the province.
He noted that the DFA has the authority to set standards and qualifications for a province to be allowed to host the office.
“DFA is empowered to open. You do not need a law. But if you desire to file it, if mapasar inyong balaod pero og dili ka mopasar sa qualification standards, di gyud ka abri,” said Chatto. (with a report from A. Doydora)