12 August 2008

Hi-tech passports issued in Subic Freeport

About 1,000 residents from communities around the Subic Bay Freeport, mostly employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and their dependents, availed of "high-tech" passports issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) here on Saturday during a mobile passporting project.

The DFA project, which was held jointly with the SBMA, made the long trip to the DFA office in Manila or Clark unnecessary since the passport-processing centers "are brought to the people instead," said Atty. Robert Martinez, SBMA deputy administrator for administration.

"Applicants get to save a lot on transportation, food, time and worries," Martinez added.

Aside from the convenience, the Subic passporting project also delivered the latest machine-readable passports (MRPs), said Renato Villapando, chief of the DFA's Office of Consular Affairs (OCA).

Villapando announced that the maroon-colored MRPs launched in 2007 were now issued in place of the green-colored ones which used handwritten entries.

"This will be the first time that MRPs were issued in Subic," he said.

The new passports, he said, had lamination bearing holograms and special printing that are visible only under high-tech decoding lens. These are but some of the security features that make MRPs harder to forge, he added.

Villpando said the use of MRPs is undertaken in compliance with standards agreed to by contracting states of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which includes the Philippines.

The DFA-OCA chief also expressed satisfaction with the way SBMA handled the passporting project, saying the Subic event "has been the most organized so far this year."

Previously, Villapando's team has conducted similar projects in Marikina, Pasig, Palawan, Puerto Princesa and Baler, Aurora, among others.

Martinez said the SBMA has handled several mobile passporting projects since 2003 as part of its efforts to serve the community.

"The service gets better since the process becomes more streamlined as we hold the event annually," he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)