APO Production fights off detractors
State-controlled APO Production Unit is fending off what appears to be a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign against its credentials as a top-notch printer.
Several quarters, according to APO chairperson Milagros Alora, had questioned the transfer of the printing contract from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to the state company, claiming the latter was not qualified to provide security printing services to the Philippine government.
“If only those attack dogs had done even the most basic research, they would not have made such an erroneous statement, that APO is a private printing company or that it has no experience or facilities for security printing,” fumes Alora.
Alora said while it was true that Philippine passports were printed by the Bangko Sentral at its security plant complex in Quezon City, several people might have been misinformed that the central bank “is the only government-owned printing facility that had the capability and the necessary security features required in producing such vital travel documents.”
She also belied assertions that the company had no established track record for printing security documents, saying APO currently produced the excise stamps for the Bureau of Internal Revenue and was not delayed in its production schedule as claimed by some. APO also maintains the Internal Revenue Stamp Information System, a security software that tracks and traces tobacco products.
Alora wondered where some people got the information that led them to conclude that “given its outdated printing equipment, the APO Production Unit is not even considered a top commercial printer.”
APO Production’s contract to print e-Passports for the Department of Foreign Affairs aims to address the country’s need for increased passport production capacity over the next 10 years, as well as upgrade the security and integrity of the electronic travel document to comply with global standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
APO is one of the three recognized government printers, as reflected on the General Appropriations Act and reaffirmed by the Governance Commission for Government Controlled or Owned Corporations. The two others are the Bangko Sentral and the National Printing Office.
Now under the supervision of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, APO was created in 1974 and had in the past been under different government agencies like the National Economic and Development Authority, Office of the Press Secretary and the Philippine Information Agency.
APO sought to meet the urgent need for capital projects through lease-purchase agreements when the present board took office in November 2010. The move enabled the company to immediately acquire new equipment and machinery for high value contracts from the BIR, DFA, Social Security System, and the Land Transportation Office, among others.
Alora said APO had been servicing the various printing needs of the DFA since 2012, providing technical support for the Document Management System of the DFA’s Office for Consular Affairs.
But the DFA in February 2014 began experiencing major delays in the delivery of passports as a result of an outdated and deteriorating system. Due to considerable costs involved in maintaining the original passport system that was installed in 2009, the DFA decided to outsource the passport booklet production and personalization of the passport with increased security features.
The DFA, in order to address the increasing demand for passports, signed an agreement with APO on January 15, 2015 for the maintenance and repair of the old system, which was handled by a foreign contractor.
APO repaired several problems arising from the old system, but operational issues continued to persist. In July 2014, APO opened its new security printing facility at the LIMA Technology Center in Malvar, Batangas to enable it to address the specific the needs of the DFA.
APO developed the three-hectare property exclusively as a high security printing facility to enable the company to achieve its mandate to provide accountable forms and high security printing services for the national government and its agencies.
Filipinos, thus, will get a much-improved travel document with the use of superior technologies, adopting high end security features and employing end-to-end printing solution at a secured facility.
APO, meanwhile, kept the price so as not to burden the traveling public, especially the migrant Filipino workers.
Prior to APO’s assumption of the job, passport printing posed a big threat to the national security because highly restricted data was handled by Oberthur Technologies SA of France. Live passports were being stolen and fugitives being able to take refuge in other countries using real passports.
APO’s job has secured the control of printing e-passports from end to end, says Alora.