Voting 252-0, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 6510 or the New Passport Law, which gives a discount to senior citizens and persons with disabilities getting a passport, among other changes.
The congressional fact sheet said the bill will harmonize the provisions of the existing Passport Law with current domestic laws and international agreements.
The bill mandates the issuance of passports using the latest tamper-proof and data-management technologies.
It also simplifies the passport documentation requirements of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of Consular Affairs in conformity with relevant laws such as the Domestic Adoption Act of 1998 and the Citizenship and Reacquisition Act of 2003 and existing standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
It also directs the DFA to allow senior citizens to renew their passports through available technology without the need for personal appearance.
It also entitles senior citizens and persons with disabilities to a 50 percent discount on the fees for the processing, issuance, or replacement of a passport.
It also authorizes the issuance of emergency passports to Filipino citizens for certain reasons.
Likewise, it authorizes the issuance of other travel documents based on specific circumstances:
1 . Emergency Travel Document issued to a Filipino citizen who needs to travel urgently but who has lost a valid passport, or whose passport has expired or is expiring and cannot be issued a regular passport, or who has not been issued a regular passport and who for one reason or another cannot be issued a regular passport;
2. Travel Document Certificate for Filipinos to be repatriated, alien spouse of a Filipino and their dependents who are yet to be naturalized, and aliens permanently residing in the Philippines; and
3. Convention Travel Document for stateless persons, refugees, or persons applying for asylum in the Philippines.
It penalizes the acts of illegally withholding a passport and the forging of visas and entry documents as passport-related offenses.
It also imposes stiffer penalties on offenses relating to the issuance, forgery, and improper use of passports and travel documents, and the multiple possession of passports.
It imposes the maximum penalties of 6 years imprisonment and P2 million when offenses are committed by a syndicate or on a large scale.
It also removes the earlier authorization of travel or recruitment agencies to apply for passports on behalf of the applicants.
The House will submit the bill to the Senate for consideration.