LOCSIN BACKTRACKS STATEMENT: Passport data not taken, only ‘made inaccessible’

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MANILA – Foreign Affairs secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr. on Tuesday backtracked on his previous statement that former French contractor Oberthur Technologies ran away with Philippine passport data, saying details turned over by the company to the government were merely “made inaccessible.”

“Data is not run-away-able but made inaccessible. Access denied,” Locsin wrote on Twitter.

Although current passport contractor and printer APO Production Unit, Inc., a national government printer, was able to access the data from Oberthur, Locsin said these are “not much use and parts corrupted.”

Locsin’s latest remarks are contrary to APO’s statement on Monday, saying the equipment containing details of passport applicants are intact, accessible and restored.

“All data have been retrieved when the equipment was turned over. It was all restored,” said Michael Dalumpines, chairman of APO Production Unit, Inc. “We can access everything.”

He added: “Our IT guys were able to do something about it. That’s why the data was restored.”

Locsin last week claimed that French contractor Oberthur Technologies, which used to provide maintenance of printing machines, ran off with the personal data because it was pissed off as the contract was terminated.

The issue of data breach surfaced after a Filipino worker complained to Locsin via Twitter that he was asked to submit a birth certificate when he applied for a passport.

This requirement, however, was meant only for holders of old brown and green passports or first-time applicants of machine-readable electronic passports, clarified DFA assistant secretary Elmer Cato.

Manual passports do not contain electronic chips and do not have the biometric data of passport holders.

When they were still in use, the DFA did not have the capacity and technology to capture all data submitted to them by the applicants.

Locsin said APO “agrees with me that old passports are best evidence of identity.”

“Join me in despising those who don’t agree with me,” the Foreign Affairs chief said.

The DFA issues a staggering 10,000 passports daily or 3 million passports a year, but that huge demand still balloons to 25,000 per day during the peak travel seasons like in the Christmas season and the summer holidays. (With GMA News/PN)

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