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Friday, June 23, 2017

Unauthorized Alteration in E-Passport May Cause Trouble For Filipino Travelers

A government watchdog and anti-corruption advocate Action for Good Governance has raised the alarm about the possibility of Filipino travelers getting detained and deported back to the Philippines after they have discovered alleged unauthorized changes in materials and security features of the new digital passport or e-passport.  The group's convenor, Atty. Argee Guevarra, argues that the quality of the new batch of passports are substandard. He showed a leaf from a supposed newly printed passport given to him by his informant, saying the new print is thinner and the embedded watermarks are not that clear.  This apparent change may cause the passports to be suspected as fake or forgeries and will not pass the reading machines at airports locally and internationally. This might result in possible detention and deportation of Filipino passport holders. The scenario would be “a nightmare” for OFWs who may end up jobless and detained abroad.  The DFA, under former Sec. Alberto del Rosario, touted the new e-passport in 2016. The new design was unveiled during former President Aquino’s visit to the Asian Productivity Organization - Production Unit’s high-security printing plant at Lima Technology Center in Batangas, which currently prints the BIR’s excise stamps. APO-PU later granted United Graphic Expression Corporation, a private company, a ten-year P39 Billion contract to print 150,000 to 200,000 new passports and renewals annually.  The passport's electronic covers which contain the chip are being assembled in Europe, while booklet printing is being done by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the personalization by the Department of Foreign Affairs. A whistle-blower allegedly told Guevarra that the APO-PU UGEC deal was without DFA permission - at a time when the backlog for passport applications were at its height.  Upon his appointment as DFA Secretary under President Duterte, Sec. Perfecto Yasay has considered the APO-PU deal with UGC anomalous. Only three entities are supposed to handle the printing of passports - the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the National Printing Office, and the Asian Productivity Organization-Production Unit. Yasay did not get confirmation as DFA Secretary. President Duterte then appointed Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to the post.  Guevarra has asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to look into the issue. The secretary is considering a review, however the passports with questionable materials are scheduled for release in the next few months.  Among the security features in the new e-Passport is the use of a latent image which is visible only when the document is viewed at a certain angle, ultraviolet ink only visible under UV light, watermark, the use of a different security background design for every visa page to prevent VISA page tampering, and laser perforation for the unique document number perforate on the passport’s inside pages.  It uses the intaglio printing technique which is usually used in printing paper money.  “The unique formulation and design of these materials are security features in themselves, much like the paper and ink used for Philippine currency,” Guevarra said in his statement.




A government watchdog and anti-corruption advocate Action for Good Governance has raised the alarm about the possibility of Filipino travelers getting detained and deported back to the Philippines after they have discovered alleged unauthorized changes in materials and security features of the new digital passport or e-passport.

The group's convenor, Atty. Argee Guevarra, argues that the quality of the new batch of passports are substandard. He showed a leaf from a supposed newly printed passport given to him by his informant, saying the new print is thinner and the embedded watermarks are not that clear.

This apparent change may cause the passports to be suspected as fake or forgeries and will not pass the reading machines at airports locally and internationally. This might result in possible detention and deportation of Filipino passport holders. The scenario would be “a nightmare” for OFWs who may end up jobless and detained abroad.


The DFA, under former Sec. Alberto del Rosario, touted the new e-passport in 2016. The new design was unveiled during former President Aquino’s visit to the Asian Productivity Organization - Production Unit’s high-security printing plant at Lima Technology Center in Batangas, which currently prints the BIR’s excise stamps. APO-PU later granted United Graphic Expression Corporation, a private company, a ten-year P39 Billion contract to print 150,000 to 200,000 new passports and renewals annually.

The passport's electronic covers which contain the chip are being assembled in Europe, while booklet printing is being done by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the personalization by the Department of Foreign Affairs. A whistle-blower allegedly told Guevarra that the APO-PU UGEC deal was without DFA permission - at a time when the backlog for passport applications were at its height.

Upon his appointment as DFA Secretary under President Duterte, Sec. Perfecto Yasay has considered the APO-PU deal with UGC anomalous. Only three entities are supposed to handle the printing of passports - the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the National Printing Office, and the Asian Productivity Organization-Production Unit. Yasay did not get confirmation as DFA Secretary. President Duterte then appointed Senator Alan Peter Cayetano to the post.

Guevarra has asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to look into the issue. The secretary is considering a review, however the passports with questionable materials are scheduled for release in the next few months.



Among the security features in the new e-Passport is the use of a latent image which is visible only when the document is viewed at a certain angle, ultraviolet ink only visible under UV light, watermark, the use of a different security background design for every visa page to prevent VISA page tampering, and laser perforation for the unique document number perforate on the passport’s inside pages.

It uses the intaglio printing technique which is usually used in printing paper money.

“The unique formulation and design of these materials are security features in themselves, much like the paper and ink used for Philippine currency,” Guevarra said in his statement.

sources: ABS-CBN, Manila Standard, UNTV




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