RIGHT MOVE: Iris scans are expected to curb passport fraud and human trafficking Image Credit: GULF NEWS ARCHIVES

DUBAI Filipinos applying for a new electronic passport may undergo iris scans from next year as part of security enhancements, a senior diplomat announced.

Frank Cimafranca, Philippine Consul General in Dubai, said eye scans are included in planned e-passport enhancements, which will soon go through an open bidding round. “This will boost security, curb passport fraud and help reduce human trafficking,” he told a press conference in Dubai. Currently, the Philippine e-passport uses automated finger-printing and digital imaging for verification, among several overt and hidden security features.

“The iris scan will just be an added feature,” said Cimafranca. “Our ePassport already complies with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and features a chip within its pages that contains data to verify the identity of the passport holder, including through iris scans.”

The new passports with eye scans will be mandatory from as early as 2014, he said, but he declined to comment on whether this would mean higher fees. A Philippine e-passport is currently available for Dh240. The consulate in Dubai issues around 50,000 new passports each year. By law, only the central bank in Manila can print Philippine e-passports.

It currently takes up to six weeks from date of application before the applicant receives the new ePassport, but Cimafranca gives no guarantees. He advised applicants to apply months before intended travel or six months before expiration of their passports.


Meanwhile, the diplomat who previously served in The Hague said he hopes to cut the waiting time for passport renewal in Dubai and the northern emirates when an additional biometric-taking machine is delivered.

“One mobile passport biometric-taking machine has already been earmarked for our post [in Dubai], in addition to the three we currently have,” he said. The additional one could, in theory, cut waiting time by about 25 per cent. Upon approval by Congress, an additional 10 foreign service staff will beef up the consulate’s manpower in Dubai to serve the estimated 400,000 Filipinos in Dubai and northern emirates.