by John Concepcion
The Department of Foreign Affairs will soon be issuing and renewing passports in major shopping malls all over the country, a move that it envisions to not only improve the delivery of passport services, but also save millions of pesos for the government.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said the DFA will soon start transferring its Regional Consular Offices to shopping malls around the country and save the government some P250 million in the next 10 years.
The Foreign Affairs expects to begin the first of nine regional and extension offices to some of the country’s leading mall operators that are covered under Private-Public Partnership arrangements before the end of the year.
“With this move, the DFA is taking a big leap forward as it can now more effectively deliver consular services to the public in modern, more applicant-friendly settings at very little cost to the government,” Del Rosario said.
“This is a prime example of the Private-Public Partnership that the President wants us to pursue.”
He said the DFA has entered into Memorandums of Agreement with the Gokongwei-owned Robinsons Land Corporation and the Gaisano-owned Pacific Mall Corporation for the transfer and hosting of an initial six of the 18 existing DFA regional consular and extension offices and two new regional offices.
He said the arrangements will help the government realize savings of more than P25 million annually in rent and other operating expenses.
The Foreign Affairs Secretary added negotiations are also ongoing with other mall developers for the transfer and hosting of the remaining regional consular offices as well as the opening of new passport extension offices in Metro Manila.
Just the other day, the DFA entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Robinsons Land for the transfer and long-term hosting of the RCO in Pampanga, the biggest and busiest among DFA offices nationwide, to a P23-million facility at the Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando.
The agreement with Robinsons Land also covers the RCOs in Bacolod, Batangas, General Santos, Iloilo, and Tacloban and the extension office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Quezon City. It also includes arrangements for the hosting of new consular offices in Laoag and Dumaguete.