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No walk-ins, no pick-ups for passport applicants as PCG tightens crowd control

23 April 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Social distancing set-up for passport applicants at the Philippine Consulate

Since it reopened on Apr 19 after a long Easter break, the Consulate has implemented its own social distancing measures in line with the Hong Kong government’s campaign to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The most obvious change is the placement of customized benches in front of the service counters for passport applicants who need to have their pictures taken. The applicant now sits about a meter away from the counters where the staff shoots with the camera and encodes the applicant’s personal data.

Before this, the applicants needed to go inside the office beyond the counters to have their passport application processed by a staff member sitting at the same table.
Two further enhancements have been put in place in relation to passport applications.

The first, according to Consul General Raly Tejada, is that “all passport appointments will now be online, email and phone – absolutely no walk ins.”

This is meant to reduce the number of people congregating near the counters and assures applicants that they will get their passport application processed on the indicated day.
 
Congen Tejada says there will be no more walk-ins and pick-ups for passport applicants
The second, which Congen Tejada says will likely be put in place middle of next month, is to use Hong Kong Post’s “efficient and reliable service” to send the new passport directly to the applicant’s home address.

Told that some migrant workers are not given access to their employers’ mailbox, he said the Consulate will ask employers to allow their helpers to accept the delivery as they will have to personally sign a receipt for it.

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Congen Tejada said sending the passport directly to the applicant will save time and effort, as all they have to do is buy a prepaid envelope from HK Post amounting to $32.

“The main reason is to help the applicant avoid making another trip to the Consulate just to pick up, and in compliance na din with the prescribed social distancing rules,” he said.

Often, the passport office in Manila is able to send the document earlier than the prescribed six weeks, which means the applicants will also get it a lot more quickly than if they waited until the date indicated on their receipts to pick it up at the Consulates.
 
Passport applicants will be asked to buy this mailing envelope by mid-May 
Over at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, the most sought-after service by migrant workers of having their money claims against their employers calculated is also now being done only online.
But apart from these measures, the Consulate cannot do much more to reduce the number of people inside its premises in the five days that it is open to the public.

Many Filipinos still need to go to them personally to ask for help for all sorts of personal, legal, or work-related problems. Others go to them to process new employment contracts, or transact with attached agencies like SSS and Pag-IBIG.

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Congen Tejada says closing down the Consulate as what’s been done in many countries all over the world where there is a lockdown is out of the question.

First, Hong Kong has never shut government offices providing essential services, like the Labour and Immigration Departments.

More importantly, he says: “We need to stay open kasi kailangan tayo ng mga kababayan natin. Kung wala silang matakbuhan, paano na?”









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