The measure is deemed beneficial among OFWs
The Senate approved today on third and final reading a bill extending the validity of Philippine passports from five years to 10 years.
Senate Bill No. 1365, or the Philippine Passport Act, was approved with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention. The bill was authored by Senators Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara, Joel Villanueva, Grace Poe, Alan Peter Cayetano and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto.
Villar, vice-chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and sponsor of the bill, said the proposed law sought to extend the validity of the passport from five years to 10 years to make travel abroad easier, especially for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
"We owe a lot to our OFWs. They keep our economy afloat with their remittances of approximately $50 billion annually. Giving them a 10-year guarantee on their right to travel abroad will certainly be a great help to them," Villar added.
She said the passport's current period of validity of five years was in actuality less than the five years because travel abroad was often disallowed for persons whose passports were about to expire within six months' time or less.
"Our Constitution guarantees our countrymen's right to travel. We should indeed have the freedom to move around and even leave the country for whatever valid purpose we may have. We could only be prevented by the government from leaving the country if there is a statutory basis for it; and the grounds are limited only to matters of national security, public safety or public health," Villar said.
She said the measure also sought to prevent backlogs in the issuance of passports with the extension of its validity.
Cayetano, who chairs the Committee on Foreign Relations, said that the passage of the measure into law would be in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's promise to promote the welfare of the people. He said that there was a need to make the passport application process more "seamless, convenient, and pro-people, especially to OFWs, as any delay in processing their travel documents could cost them their employment abroad.
"Simplifying our passport application system would ease our people's burden of having to renew their passports every few years. It would also prevent any backlogs in the issuance of passports," Cayetano said.
Photo courtesy of OFW Life