‘DIY’ license plates will do amid shortage – LTO
MANILA, Philippines — Owners of new cars and motorcycles may have to make their own temporary plates in the wake of a looming shortage of license plates by June and July, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) said on Wednesday.
“Based on the forecast of LTO, license plates will run out for motorcycles by June, and by July, [those] for motor vehicles will be depleted as well,” LTO chief Jose Arturo Tugade told reporters.
Tugade, also an assistant secretary at the Department of Transportation (DOTr), said the agency had only fewer than 3,000 remaining blank plates on hand for motor vehicles and 735,000 plates for motorcycles.
He said the LTO was working on contingencies, including the authorization of temporary plates provided by the vehicle owners themselves, to address the expected shortage.
“So for example, motorcycle owners, in the absence of a plate number, they can create a plate number, and on the plate number, it will say the motor vehicle file number of the motorcycle,” Tugade explained.
The plate numbers will then be verified by LTO officials by matching their file number with those in the vehicle’s certificate of registration, according to Tugade.
Aside from making one’s own temporary plate number, vehicle owners also face the possibility of carrying with them driver’s licenses printed on paper.
The LTO earlier proposed to issue printed driver’s licenses as a stopgap measure due to the dwindling supply of plastic cards for driver’s licenses, which is expected to completely run out soon.
Tugade acknowledged, however, that several issues could arise with the proposal to allow vehicle owners themselves to make their temporary license plates, including a possible increase in crimes using vehicles with no real plates and the laborious procedure for LTO to countercheck the do-it-yourself (DIY) plates.
“This is one of the reasons why we should really push for the procurement of these license plates as much as possible. We should exert all effort to avoid a situation wherein we would run out of license plates,” said Tugade, son of former Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who headed the DOTr during the previous Duterte administration.
Tugade blamed the possible shortage of license plate supply on the procurement process in the DOTr, the same reason he cited in the backlog of driver’s license cards earlier.
“Because the project to purchase license plates reached more than P50 million, following the special order of the DOTr, they would be the ones to do the procurement of the plates,” he said.
Tugade was referring to DOTr Special Order No. 2023-024 issued on Jan. 25, which indicated that all procurement activities involving P50 million and above must be administered by the DOTr central office.
The move was aimed at avoiding controversial deals entered into by the LTO in the past, including the P3.8-billion contract for the supply of 15 million license plates that the Senate investigated in 2021 for alleged anomalies, and the P978.8-million agreement for the manufacture of motorcycle plates that was marred by complaints on the LTO’s supposed bias for a “favored” contractor.
“We are continuously contacting the DOTr for additional documents and information needed in the procurement process and we are confident that the DOTr will be able to complete the process so that we can purchase a supply of license plates as soon as possible,” Tugade said.
“The DOTr has been fully informed of this situation because, again, since the budget for the procurement of license plates is P4.5 billion, it is the DOTr that is in charge of procuring these items,” he added.
Tugade said that the LTO had already projected the driver’s license shortage as early as Nov. 15, 2022, prompting the agency to form a procurement committee, but the DOTr issued the new procurement policy for contracts worth P50 million and higher.
“So I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to the DOTr to fast-track and conclude the procurement of license plates,” he said in an earlier interview with cable news channel ANC.
Tugade said that they repeatedly pleaded with the DOTr to reconsider the order, but such requests remained “unheeded and denied.”
Driver’s license shortage
At a press briefing on April 20, the LTO said motorists seeking to renew or apply for a driver’s license might need to temporarily use a paper-printed license due to a 5.2 million backlog in the supply of plastic cards.
The temporary document would contain a unique QR code for law enforcers to authenticate and validate the receipt, and motorists would be required to show it or a picture of it in the event they are apprehended, Tugade said.
He noted that if only they were allowed to continue with their procurement activities, “we would have sufficient plastic cards right now.”
As of last week, the total number of plastic cards available on hand for driver’s licenses was only around 147,000 nationwide, according to Tugade.
Upon taking the helm of the LTO in November last year, Tugade said it already monitored the critical level of inventory of their plastic cards, prompting him to constitute the committees that would have procured the material.
They were ready to start buying the materials by December but the following month, he said they received the special order from the DOTr on the new procurement policy.
The DOTr, for its part, vowed that the driver’s license cards would become available for delivery by July.