Manila: The Philippines has joined the league of some 60 countries using ePassports after adopting the silicon chip-embedded travel documents.
During ceremonies marking the 111th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday, President Gloria Arroyo launched the country's first ePassport.
The ePassport will put the country on par with developed nations in terms of ease of travel and security for Filipino travellers, officials announced.
Arroyo had the honour of being the country's first ePassport holder with the serial number EA0000001 embossed on her travel document.
During the launch ceremonies, Arroyo demonstrated the ease of using the new passport booklets by swiping her travel document over a passport reader. The device readily revealed the president's biometric information, as well as digital signature and photograph.
According to DFA secretary Roberto Romulo, the new ePassport is a joint undertaking by the DFA and the central bank (BSP). Its issuance makes the country compliant with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) of which the Philippines is a member. Romulo said the key feature of the ePassport is a tamperproof electronic microchip with a hidden coded holographic image.
"Its Integrated Circuit (IC) chip stores the passport holder's photograph and other personal data for easy verification of identity and is fully inter-operable which means that the chip can be read by border control officials in other countries using a passport chip reader," Romulo said.
He added that the ePassport will facilitate and hasten entry formalities for Filipino travellers, as well as further cut down on passport fraud and tampering.
Romulo said the Philippine ePassport would be available at a price nearly double the current machine-readable travel document. At 950 pesos (Dh72.44), the Philippine ePassports is one of the lowest-priced ePassports in the world, he added.
Filipino passport applicants also have the choice of applying between the ePassport or the machine-readable document currently priced at 500 pesos.
The ePassport project is part of the DFA's passport modernisation programme which started in 2007 with the launch of the machine readable passport. To date, about four million MRPs have been issued.