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Monday, March 27, 2017

Probe e-passport project, Congress urged

ORGANIZED labor has called for a congressional probe into the government’s P8-billion e-passport project.
The Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU), an umbrella organization of labor unions, on Sunday expressed concern on the implications of the project amid allegations of overpricing in the contract for the new digital passport.
“Many of the passport applicants are workers who leave their family to work abroad. Data indicates that there are 5,000 Filipinos who leave the country everyday either as tourists, as an OFW and those who immigrate to other countries for good,” said PAFLU president Terry Tuazon.
The old machine-readable passport (MRP) cost only P550, or P700 if the applicant wanted faster processing. Now the DFA collects P950 from each applicant, or P1,200 if processing is rushed.
Tuazon explained that except for the electronic chip embedded in the e-passport that captures data and security features, there was no other enhancement to justify the high cost.
“With 17,000 new applicants (daily) who troop to the various consular offices all over the country that’s a lot of money for the government,” he said noted.
The 10-year contract for the printing of passports was awarded to the APO-Printing Unit (APO-PU), a quasi-government entity. Philippine passports used to be printed at the security plant complex of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The group assailed the DFA’s decision to de-commission the BSP, allowing APO-PU to subcontract the project to the United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC).
It was estimated that APO-PU and its private partner stand to rake in P25.5 billion from the contract.
The PAFLU slammed the alleged overpricing of the new digital passport for being “anti-worker.”
“The prudent policy is to make life a little bearable for our workers and not to impose additional burden. The abolition of the terminal fee is in line with this policy thrust,” the labor leader stressed.

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