Filipinos want better access to passport services

Dozens of Filipinos lined the hallways at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer to renew their passports in an outreach mission hosted by the Vancouver-based Philippine Consulate on Friday.

Dozens of Filipinos lined the hallways at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer to renew their passports in an outreach mission hosted by the Vancouver-based Philippine Consulate on Friday.

It was the second outreach mission this year that offered Filipinos, including permanent residents and temporary workers, the opportunity to renew their passports without travelling to the consulate in Vancouver. While there are Philippine consuls in Edmonton and Calgary, they do not offer passport renewal services. Filipinos must apply in person to renew their passports.

In March, roughly 600 Filipinos from across the province took advantage of the outreach mission service at the Red Deer Lodge. About the same, if not more, applications are expected to be processed over the three-day mission.

Red Deer resident Jhong dela Cruz is part of the Migrante Canada’s lobbying efforts to press the Philippine embassy in Canada to provide better access to its services throughout Canada. The organization has branches across Canada representing Filipino temporary workers. Filipinos in Canada can only renew their passports at either the Toronto or Vancouver consulate offices or at outreach renewal missions.

“Alberta has become one of the main destinations for temporary foreign workers,” said dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz said the temporary workers have to take time off from work and spend a lot of money to get a simple renewal. He said a renewal can be quite costly. Migrante Canada recently launched an online petition recently calling Ottawa to expand its services, reduce the renewal fee from $69 to $23, the fee paid in the Philippines and provide services in large cities including Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal.

Arlyn Bello, a temporary worker, said she saved hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels when she renewed her passport two months ago at the mission. Bello said now she won’t have to worry about her passport again for another five years.

Jose Ampeso, Philippine consul general, said there are about 60,000 Filipinos in Alberta. Just last week the office offered the mobile service in both Edmonton and Calgary where thousands filed applications.

“We serve about 200,000 to 250,000 Filipinos a year,” said Ampeso.

The Vancouver consulate covers western Canada including Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The mission wraps up on Sunday. The petition can be found at www.ipetitions.com. Search “Provide Accessible and Affordable Philippine Consular Services Across Canada.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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