By Kristine Daguno-Bersamina, March 16, 2024; Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the “New Philippine Passport Act,” designed to modernize passport application processes nationwide.

The law aims to greatly improve accessibility and streamline procedures, especially benefiting senior citizens, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and individuals with special needs or exceptional circumstances, according to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Friday.

The recently enacted law, signed on March 11, replaced Republic Act No. 8239, also known as the Passport Act of 1996.

“The new passport law now authorizes DFA to provide offsite and mobile passport services in areas outside of the consular offices and foreign service posts (FSPs),” the PCO said.

“The DFA is also mandated by the new law to arrange accommodations for the applications of regular passports by senior citizens, PWDs, pregnant women, minors aged seven years old and below, solo parents, OFWs, and individuals with emergency and exceptional cases,” it added.

To ensure passport security, the PCO explained that the law sets tough penalties for unauthorized passport handling. Offenders could face at least 12 years in prison and fines ranging from P1 million to P2 million.

The New Philippine Passport Act addresses offenses such as passport forgery and misuse, with penalties including imprisonment for six to 15 years and fines ranging from P100,000 to P250,000.

It also targets unfair practices in passport issuance, prescribing penalties like suspension, dismissal, fines of up to P250,000, and imprisonment for a maximum of six years.

According to the PCO, regular passports, meant for Filipino citizens ineligible for diplomatic or official passports, will be issued under the new law, serving government officials or employees traveling abroad for personal reasons.

“Government officials and employees and members of their families may, during their incumbency in office, hold two passports simultaneously,” the PCO said.

The New Philippine Passport Act will take effect 15 days after its publication in either the Official Gazette or a widely circulated newspaper.