LEGAZPI CITY (4-Feb-2013/PNA) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has formally opened its consular office in Bicol in a commercial shopping mall in this city for easy processing of passport applications.
DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis led DFA officials and members of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) in inaugurating DFA’s Bicol Consular Office at the third floor of the Pacific Mall, the biggest commercial center in Albay.
Seguis said the transfer of the DFA Bicol Consular Office is among the programs of the agency in bringing its services closer to the public.
He said the Bicol office is the 11th DFA unit to have transferred in a shopping mall nationwide through the public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
In Bicol, the DFA has partnered with the Pacific Mall in Legazpi, owned by the Gaisano family from Cebu that is operating a chain of shopping malls nationwide.
Margaret Gaisano Ang, part owner of the Pacific Mall, lauded the PPP as a milestone project wherein government and the private sector joined hands for the benefit of the public.
The DFA office occupies a 400-square-meter floor area with a huge space to accommodate a long queue of applicants at the mall’s 3rd floor.
Seguis, in an interview, said the DFA Bicol’s transfer was the second PPP signed with the Gaisanos; first was in the shopping mall in Mandaue City, Cebu.
He said the passport processing office in this city is strategically located that it could facilitate and accommodate passport applicants from other Bicol mainland provinces that include Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.
He said 10 DFA regional offices were transferred to malls last year and another 10 offices will be set up this year following the agency’s program to bring its services closer to the public.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, concurrent RDC Bicol chair, commended the DFA for bringing government services closer to the people, saying that the initiative was in line with President Aquino administration’s slogan of “Tuwid na Daan” (Right Path).
Salceda said Bicol is estimated to have 25 percent or 1.3 million of its current population of 5.4 million who are passport holders.
“The transfer will be of great service to the people, especially in terms of transportation cost, as Bicol-based applicants or holders have yet to go to Manila to either renew or apply for a new passport,” he said.
Maricor Jesalva, DFA regional director, said that aside from issuing passports, her office is also tasked to assist Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and their families through its National Assistance Desk. (PNA)