Saturday, June 2, 2012

DFA offices in shopping centers to follow mall hours

The Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) consular offices in shopping centers will now follow the malls' schedules. In a message read by Undersecretary Rafael Seguis at the inauguration of the latest DFA facility in Pampanga, DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said the longer hours will allow applicants to have their passports processed or released even after office hours - from Mondays to Sundays. “To further improve our services, our regional offices will be open during mall hours, Mondays to Saturdays. With this, applicants need not take the entire day off like they do now just to apply for their passports. Applicants now have the option to do this after office or school hours or even on Saturdays,” Del Rosario said. The new 995-square-meter DFA facility is located at the Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando City in Pampanga. It is the second of several passport offices that the DFA will open in shopping malls nationwide under Public-Private Partnership arrangements. The first, DFA Cebu, was opened in February at the Pacific Mall in Mandaue. “What we have here in Robinsons Starmills is a first-class facility that offers first-class services to our kababayans, especially overseas workers, not only from Pampanga and the other provinces of the region but Metro Manila and other parts of Northern Luzon as well,” Del Rosario said in his message. “More than anything else, it is the compulsion to serve the public better that made us make this happen... What we envision with the relocation of our consular offices to shopping malls is a DFA that would be able to provide fast and efficient services to our people in settings that offer them both comfort and convenience,” he added. Mall hours Del Rosario said passport offices that would be hosted in malls belonging to Pacific Mall, Robinsons Land Corporation, Ayala Land Corporation, and SM Prime Holdings will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays. They will not only process new applications and renewals but also release passports. He also said DFA offices in the said shopping centers will also be open half-day on Sundays but only to allow applicants to personally claim their passports. “But even with these changes for the better, passport fees will remain the same: P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing. These are the amounts all applicants are required to pay, nothing more, for the kind of service we are now extending,” he said. The inauguration of DFA San Fernando comes six months after the DFA and Robinsons Land formally entered into arrangements for the transfer and hosting of the main consular office for Region III that was previously located at the City Transport Terminal. Arrangements with Robinsons Land will allow the DFA to save more than P233 million in operational and other costs over ten years. The DFA also entered into Public-Private Partnership arrangements with Pacific Mall Corporation, Ayala Land Incorporated, and SM Prime Holdings for the hosting of other consular offices in Angeles, Bacolod, Baguio; Batangas, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos; Iloilo; Laoag; Lipa; Mandaluyong; Manila; Quezon City; and Tacloban. “As a result of the Public-Private Partnership arrangements we initiated, the DFA will be able to save the government a total of P1.04 billion in operating costs in the next 10 years. The savings cover an initial 16 consular offices across the country that would occupy more than 7,000 square meters of prime space in DFA partner malls,” del Rosario said. He added the DFA expects to generate more savings once it concludes negotiations with its private sector partners for the hosting of its remaining consular offices. Del Rosario said the DFA wants all its existing consular offices in the provinces to be serving the public in shopping malls in major cities nationwide by 2014. - VVP