Passport Renewal - My DFA Trip
My passport was overdue for renewal which I should have done last June 2011. Good thing there is no penalty in renewing Philippine passports otherwise, I'll probably be paying buckets of money for the delay. With all the "modernization" efforts in the different government agencies, I can say that I am on neutral grounds. We all know that upgrades with government agencies and infrastructures also equate to people making some adjustments or sacrifices err, hassle.
It was my first time to go to DFA-Aseana in Macapal Blvd. I actually didn't know how to commute going there. After a few internet research, I was sure of one thing and that is to go to SM Mall of Asia and take it from there.
So, here's how I got to DFA-Aseana Macapagal Blvd:
1. From Buendia, I hopped onto the orange jeepneys going to SM MOA.
2. From SM MOA, I walked a bit towards the bus loading and unloading area.
3. There are buses with signboard "MIA and DFA", get on that bus. It costs Php 12. I told the bus conductor to tell me if we are already in the DFA Bldg. Luckily, there were a number of passengers who got down in the same destination as mine.
4. One landmark to tell that you are on the right track is the McDonald's branch right where the bus will stop to unload passengers. Then, you have to cross the road to get to the DFA Bldg.
I wasn't really familiar with the online application for passport renewal, which you can access at http://passport.com.ph/. So, with high hopes, I opted to seek assistance from a travel agency (Southern Sky Travel & Tours) located in SM Calamba. The agent asked me to pay Ph 200 for simply encoding my details in the passport renewal online system and then instructed me to pay the actual passport renewal fee at the DFA. She also told me that the travel agency do not have a representative to assist me when I get to the DFA Bldg. This was contrary to what other travel agencies do. Other travel agencies (from what I heard and I've witnessed in the DFA Consular office), normally has a representatives at the DFA and assists the client in the whole process. I was very disappointed and felt like I wasted 200 bucks and could have done the online process on my own.
Anyway, here are the things which made me impressed about the upgrades at the Department of Foreign Affairs:
1. There was crowd control. You only get to enter the actual vicinity one hour before your appointment schedule. Although, it was indicated in the online appointment system that you should be present 30 minutes before your schedule.
2. There was a validation of document counter. You don't have to ask a stranger if you have the proper documents because there is a station where actual employees of DFA will check the documents you have.
3. There is sufficient waiting area. There were a lot of monoblock chairs to keep people seated while waiting for their cues.
4. Impressive and modern building. Unlike the typical government agency, DFA Building looks neat, modern and very cool with the centralized airconditioning system.
5. Polite government employees. Contrary to what we have been long accustomed to, DFA employees are warm but with a sense of firmness when it comes to rules and regulations. When you speak to them, there's a hint of professionalism although some "oldies" are the typical government employee who has a tendency to be blunt as they deal with your concern.
6. Upgraded computers. The flat screen monitors look neat as compared to the earlier years.
7. Passport can be delivered via courier. It doesn't matter if you have to pay an extra fee of Php 120. You'll be spending the same amount if you have to personally claim your passport.
8. They have satellite offices in the mall. If you do not like to set your appointment through the travel agency, there are DFA satellite offices in the metro, for instance SM Megamall. I haven't been there personally, but it's a good sign that the government agencies are reaching out to people to avoid the hassle.
Now, here's what I hate most about this whole passport renewal experience:
1. I arrived too early for the 10:30 appointment so, I was not allowed to enter yet. Or if you wish, you can wait right outside the DFA gate under the little trees and seat on the parking lot pavement.
2. I was told to line up in the assigned waiting area for the 10:30 batch. But, when I went there, people were just seated and didn't have cue numbers at all. So, it was all jumbled up. A lady guard approached our waiting area and asked who among us came in first. I butt in and said that there was NO LINE and we were just seated. She should have arranged the cue line way before people started to arrive! Better yet, distribute cue numbers so people would have a reference.
3. The whole appointment system is just a waste! I mean, it was just used to segregate the people per batch but the schedule is not strictly implemented. Say in my case, I got the 10:30 schedule and I only got inside the building for the actual passport renewal process an hour later.
4. Waiting area outside the building may need an improvement like they should place electric fans and provide concrete structure as a waiting area and not just some improvised tent. With the tropical weather in the Philippines, it could get really hot!
5. Food is not allowed. For someone who will be waiting for two to four hours, they should at least allow people to bring in water and biscuits. Otherwise, fill your tummy before going to "war" err, falling in the seemingly endless line.
All in all, it was a mixture of good and bad experiences. I am not disregarding the whole effort of the government to improve their service. But, for a tax payer, I really felt like I deserve more...far better service. I've worked so hard to earn money for a living, and I pay my taxes well and still, I felt disgusted by how government agencies operate. It's really frustrating --- makes me think how many more years are we going to wait 'til we get the service that WE deserve. Is it truly, MORE FUN in the Philippines?!