The Philippines is issuing only the e-passports on the right, which replaced the old ones on the left (green) and the middle (maroon) Image Credit: Twitter

Highlights

  • Private outsourcing company contracted by the Manila government to facilitate passport applications “took away” applicants’ data
  • Previous contractor apparently got miffed when its contract was terminated and made off with data.
  • It is not clear what Manila's next step would be
  • Report triggers confusion, twitter storm
  • For some applicants, passport renewal would be affected

Passport renewal affected

If you're a Filipino applying to renew your Philippine passport, authorities may require you to bring your original birth certificate.

The reason: the previous outsourced "passport maker" contracted by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila “took away” all the applicants’ data, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.

“We are rebuilding our files from scratch because previous outsourced passport maker took all the data when contract (was) terminated,” Locsin stated through his personal Twitter account.

“Because previous contractor got *** when terminated it made off with data. We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again. Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept back by private entities. Data belongs to the state,” he said in another post.

Passport appointments in the Philippines had become more efficient. While it's not immediately clear how the snafu happened, the incident has kicked up a social media storm.

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There had been calls for heads to roll at the DFA.  

Locsin said he thinks the government lost the case trying to retrieve the data, due to an "idiot contract" that covered the passport outsourcing deal.

Locsin added: due to the fact that the "old contractor for passports took away all our data, so it is like starting all over again."

It's not immediately clear what that meant in terms of data privacy. But the clearest result is that the Department of Foreign Affairs could require some passports applicants with green or maroon machine-readable passports to bring their birth certificates.

DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato, in a tweet, said applicants renewing brown or green passports or maroon machine-readable passports are required to submit birth certificates.

Physical copy

“We need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document,” Cato stated.

Cato explained that before the country transitioned to the e-passport, the DFA required the submission of physical copies of birth certificates and marriage contract.

Locsin said the DFA will also come up with a system which will record unanswered calls from the public. The DFA secretary said the agency has been doubling its efforts to hasten passport issuance.

“Nobody in their right mind and good manners deliberately delays issuing passports or any requirement. What for?” he said.

In a Twitter exchange with an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who encountered a problem renewing his passport last week, Locsin questioned why it is necessary for applicants to submit their birth certificates when renewing their passports.

“Isn’t the expired passport sufficient ID? How many times do you have to prove you are what the State declared you are in the expired passports?” he said, directing the question to Cato.

Locsin was appointed DFA secretary in October last year. The lawyer, former journalist and ex-member of the House of Representatives, has been actively using Twitter to address the public's concerns.