‘Passport deal must be voided’
A LAWYER on Monday urged Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to cancel the 10-year, P39-billion contract with a private printing company to produce new Philippine passports, saying the paper being used may not pass the security standards worldwide.
“In the very near future, if these new passports are used we will be facing a lot of Filipino workers and even travelers who may be detained and eventually repatriated to the Philippines,” said Argee Guevarra, an Anti-Corruption Activist and Convenor of Action for Good Governance during the Samahang Plaridel Kapihan sa Manila Hotel forum.
“I hope by this new information we could call on the new Secretary of Foreign Affairs to look into this and hasten his decision on the cancellation of this contract.”
Guevarra said Cayetano had told him during a meeting that he would review his request.
“But his review will be in the next few months. The [passports are] scheduled to be issued in the next few months,” Guevarra said.
“If you could act fast enough, you should order a stop to the printing so that Filipino workers and travelers won’t have to endure being barred from their ports of destination.”
Guevarra said he was able to get a sample of the unreadable paper for the passports from his contacts in Asian Productivity Organization-Printing Unit (APO-PU), which has been authorized by Foreign Affairs to make the passports.
The lawyer brought with him a sample of the paper and compared it with the old passport, explaining the security defects of the new paper being made by United Graphic Expression Corp. (Ugec), a private printing company, was also being investigated by Congress.
APO-PU is a government-controlled corporation.
Guevarra said Ugec had entered into a 10-year contract with APO-PU on P3.9 billion per year for the production of 150,000 to 200,000 new passports and renewals annually.
“I have a number of communications with comrades from the Asian Productivity Organization, which is one of three recognized government printers,” he said.
“They have disclosed to me the danger travelers and Overseas Filipino Workers will soon be facing arising from the anomalous outsourcing and subcontracting by the government of our passports. “The new passport paper won’t even pass in the passport reading machines locally and internationally. In exposing this, we would like to prevent the government from going through with the printing of this, with the use of this new passport paper.
“The previous printers of our passports should have been either the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Asian Productivity Organization-Production Unit and the National Printing Office.”
“The reason why this is animated by anomaly, by outright graft and corruption lies in the fact that even the former DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay considered this as animated by the Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”
Guevarra said APO-PU had claimed that it would be in charge of printing the Philippine passports exclusively.
“And yet APO, perhaps, with a sweetheart deal with Ugec, was able to handle a contract that would effectively transform a private entity into a recognized government printer.