UAE | General

Passport renewal blues continue for Philippine expatriates

Unaware of new rules, walk-in applicants continue to queue up outside the Philippine consulate after midnight

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief reporter
  • Published: 00:00 March 24, 2011
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: © XPRESS/Jay B. Hilotin
  • Filipinos queue up outside the Philippine Consulate in Al Ghusais for passport renewal. A notice outside the gate states that from March 20, walk-in applicants for passport renewals will only be accepted after 1pm.

DUBAI: Midnight queues outside the Philippine Consulate of Filipinos applying for passport renewal were supposed to be a thing of the past. But not yet.

At 4am on Monday, XPRESS came across many ‘kabayans' (Filipino compatriots) still braving the cold wind while standing in a serpentine queue that lengthened by the minute outside villa No 48 housing the Philippine Consulate in Al Ghusais, Dubai.

They were obviously unaware of the changed rules.

An A4-size notice posted on the main gate reads: "Don't form queue at night or dawn because the listing has been discontinued" in Tagalog, but the people there seem unaware of the new rules.

The notice also announces that from March 20, 2011, the "walk-ins" for passport renewal will only be accommodated from 1pm.

Following an XPRESS report earlier, the Philippine Consulate had discontinued the practice from February 1 of listing of names at 4am for walk-ins to avoid "problems" due to lack of direct staff supervision, said Consul General Benito Valeriano.

The Consulate takes up to 200 passport renewal applicants daily with a three-month headway: those renewing this month had their names listed in December 2010. It's the "walk-in" applicants who have had to endure queues. Philippine law bans the outsourcing of passport applications. Many applicants criticised the lack of information about the changes.

New timings

Jeto Canastra, a hotel staff from Fujairah, was in queue from 10pm on Sunday, unaware that he would be attended to only at 1pm on Monday. "My information about the consulate is based on hearsay… so I came really early," he said.

Until March 19, up to 30 walk-ins were attended to from 11am, even if they stood in the queue overnight. "It's better not to have a phone connection [at the consulate]… the phones are just ringing out," said Fe San Pedro, 41, a hairstylist from Ras Al Khaimah who was in the queue from 4am on Monday.

Mohammad Bagisa, a Filipino AC technician in Dubai, said: "The lack of a proper system of disseminating information - either on the web or by phone - is unprofessional," he said.

Abner Sampaco said it was his third trip in as many days.

Valeriano however offered hope for walk-ins. "Many of those who had taken prior appointment don't show up so we are able to attend to walk-in applicants the same day … we fill them in the gaps," he said.

But he said people have a tendency to exaggerate. "They show up at 1am, which is unnecessary."

He denied that calls to the consulate go unattended. "It's not that we don't pick up the phone. There's a person assigned to take phone calls, but it is perpetually engaged with too many callers."

With only three biometric machines, the logjam is not expected to ease soon. Valeriano said they are working on improving the consulate's website, adding that the first available biometric machine from Manila would be sent to Dubai.

Comments (10)

  1. Added 21:05 March 25, 2011

    The Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi has also changed its policy but no information has been uploaded on its website. Had it been done, it would have saved us a trip. We wouldn’t have taken leave from work. Phones are often unanswered or switched off.

    Ann, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 15:23 March 25, 2011

    It is indeed sad to see Filipinos standing in long queues under the sun for renewing their passports. I think the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are one of the biggest contributors to the salary of all those Philippine Embassy staff. So is it fair to treat the OFWs so badly?

    John, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 14:05 March 25, 2011

    My pregnant wife went to the Philippine Consulate in Dubai to renew my five-year-old daughter’s passport and she was told to come back on April 10, 2011. A fixer approached her and asked her to pay Dh400 to process her application. He said the excess amount would be divided between the fixer and the consular officer. It’s sad but true that while OFWs sacrifice so much by working so hard, government representatives simply do not care!

    Armin, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 21:47 March 24, 2011

    This is not surprising as the same thing happens in the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain. Phone calls are never answered. And for walk-in queries, most of the staff just don’t know what to answer. We definitely need professional assistance. Please employ the right people on the right job.

    Lauren, Manama, Bahrain

  5. Added 18:22 March 24, 2011

    It’s really disgusting and embarrassing! The Philippine Consulate must do something for us. We need change for the better. Where is the promised growth?

    Alvin, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 17:35 March 24, 2011

    This is very true. It’s better to go at midnight to be in the queue. It’s really a sad situation.

    Eugene, Manila, Philippines

  7. Added 17:26 March 24, 2011

    The consulate officials rarely answer the phone. I have tried calling them from morning till noon for a month almost. However, not for once did they answer my phone. And how long does one need to fix a website? It has been under construction for months now. Even the e-mails bounce back. I don’t think these officials realise how frustrated we can get when we simply can’t contact them? They don’t leave us any choice except for physically visiting the consulate. If the communication problem is fixed, I am sure that the queue will shorten significantly. Also, the website needs to be fixed immediately. Updates must be regularly posted. There should be valid e-mail addresses where one can send questions and get replies. The officials must bear in mind that not all of us here can access the internet or the phone easily. There are several Filipinos here who work as domestic helpers and construction workers. Churches are also good places through which we can get information. The consulate must assign a group of people to answer queries on phone; another group must be there to help at the reception and another must be online to answer queries via e-mails.

    Issa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 16:11 March 24, 2011

    This has been a problem since last year when I had to renew my passport. I think the Philippine Consulate lacks the requisite number of staff and assistants needed to process documents needed for passport renewal, etc. The villa also is very small to accommodate the number of people who visit it daily to renew passports, seal affidavits, marriage certificates, attest documents, etc. Last year, it took me one whole day to process my documents. I wish applications and/or renewal of passports are done electronically to avoid people wasting their time in long queues.

    Levy Alcazar, Dubai , United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 14:35 March 24, 2011

    The government officials working in the Philippine Consulate are lazy, arrogant and incapable of doing their duties. They don’t care for us. We take leave from our work, queue up at early hours in the morning and take the agony of waiting endlessly just to get our documents done. In return, they offer poor, extremely slow service. Even their contact telephone numbers just keep ringing.

    Ric, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 14:33 March 24, 2011

    It’s extremely frustrating because the system in the consulate is very slow. There is no proper rules in the consulate and hence people need to queue up at 4am. I hope the government will do something about this since this problem has been troubling us for long now.

    Tinay, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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