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Several Consular Offices (COs) will resume operations beginning May 4 (Monday), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced.

Included in the list of COs that will resume its operations and serve the public starting Monday are the COs in Cotabato, La Union, Puerto Princesa, Santiago, and Tuguegarao. The rest of the COs in Luzon will still be closed until the end of the extended community quarantine (ECQ).

COs in Visayas and Mindanao such as Butuan, Dumaguete, General Santos, Tacloban, and Clarin have remained open to the public throughout most or all of the quarantine period.

However, as Misamis Occidental is under modified general community quarantine (GCQ) until May 15, applicants of CO Clarin from outside the province will have to present several documents to the provincial government to be allowed entry into the province.

Normal operations in COs in Luzon were temporarily suspended and some COs in Visayas and Mindanao were under skeleton workforces following the first extended ECQ and the local community quarantine in several other places in the country, respectively.

As several parts of Luzon are now placed under the more relaxed GCQ, and other cities in Visayas and Mindanao also lifted their community quarantine policies, operations in some COs will also be returning to normal while observing some precautionary health measures.

‘New normal’

While operations at the reopened COs are to resume, the public is informed that there are measures set in place for the health and safety of the public and the DFA personnel attending to their consular needs. These measures will also be observed in all COs once operations resume following the end of the extended ECQ.

“We seek the understanding of the public as we shift to a ‘new normal’ process so that we can minimize potential health hazards for applicants and our personnel alike while ensuring the prompt and efficient delivery of consular services to the public,” Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Neil Frank Ferrer said.

To observe the health protocols prescribed by the Department of Health, walk-in applications at DFA’s Consular Offices will be suspended during the GCQ period.

As physical distancing will be strictly observed inside COs, accommodation of applicants will be strictly regulated and everyone availing of consular services, including passport issuance or renewal coursed through the Courtesy Lane and the Diplomatic and Official Passports Section, will now need to schedule an appointment via e-mail.

Applicants are encouraged to avail of online payments and delivery of passports to minimize physical contact and reduce the likelihood of exposure.

Those who cannot avail of said services will still be allowed to transact and collect their passport and documents at the CO while observing strict physical distancing measures on their scheduled day of the appointment.

Applicants aged 60 and above, as well as those considered by the DOH to be vulnerable, are advised not to proceed with their applications for consular services at this time. However, in cases of urgent need, they may wish to coordinate with the Office of Consular Affairs further on how they may be accommodated.

Temperature checks, regulated number of people allowed inside the premises, and the wearing of masks before entry into the COs and while inside CO premises are also to be enforced on all the applicants and personnel.

Several other measures to ensure physical distancing and limiting physical contact are to be enforced to ensure the safety of all persons in the CO.

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