No car plates until 2nd quarter of 2017 – DOTr
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Motorists will have to wait until next year before they can receive their car plates and driver’s license cards.

Officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) told senators yesterday during a hearing on the agency’s proposed budget for 2017 that it would not be possible to address the backlog on car plates and driver’s license cards this year because of pending legal issues.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) can proceed with the production of license cards after an injunction issued by the court has been lifted.

The LTO has started talks with APO Production Unit Inc. for the manufacture of driver’s licenses. Once an agreement has been signed, the company can produce the license cards in six months.

DOTr officials said it would take more time to resolve the car plates backlog, which hit 6.6 million as of July.

The Commission on Audit has issued a notice of disallowance on the LTO’s contract with its Dutch-Filipino consortium Knieriem B.V. Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc. that resulted in the shortage of car plates.

The DOTr is reviewing all available options, including emergency procurement to address the car plates backlog.

If the emergency procurement is approved, car plates are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2017, DOTr officials said.

The DOTr explained that the procurement of car plates would have to be done next year because there are no funds available under this year’s national budget for such purpose.

In the long term, the DOTr intends to purchase the machines needed to manufacture the license plates.

Traffic problems

Meanwhile, senators asked the DOTr to make sure the marginalized, mostly riders of public transport, should benefit from the proposed solutions to ease traffic congestion.

Senators Grace Poe and Ralph Recto said there are measures the DOTr can immediately implement to address the traffic crisis as Congress hammers out a final version of the emergency powers to be granted to President Duterte.

“Our national transportation development strategy should be anchored on a vision of promoting inclusive mobility. It should ensure safe, comfortable and accessible transport for all Filipinos especially the poor, elderly, persons with disability, residents in far-flung areas and other marginalized sectors,” Poe told the United Kingdom Transport Solutions event organized by the British embassy in Manila.

“Traffic woes give commuters a daily dosage of indignity and torment, loss of time for family and impact on health, on top of massive economic cost,” Poe said.

The Senate committee on public services chaired by Poe is currently deliberating on several bills seeking to grant Duterte emergency powers to address traffic woes.

The panel will resume its hearing on emergency powers on Sept. 22.

Research from the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that the economic cost of traffic congestion was at P2.4 billion a day in 2014, and has increased to P3 billion per day.

Recto said the DOTr and other government agencies could actually do a lot to ease traffic while waiting for the emergency powers to be legislated.

He pointed out the DOTr has prepared a P1.15 trillion “wish list” of traffic solutions and asked the agency to classify them by priority, and immediately work on those that are easily doable.

“Not all solutions require the pouring of concrete; many require a small dash of common sense. Before we burrow a tunnel underneath Manila, can we not remove traffic obstructions first?” Recto said.

“When perpetually parked cars narrow the three lanes of a highway into two, the solution is not to widen the road so it can be used as a bigger parking lot, but to dispatch a tow truck to restore that road’s full carrying capacity in minutes,” he said.

He said subways and airports will take years to complete, but ready-to-roll ambulances for emergency medical teams and tow trucks for road clearing operations can be bought in months.

Recto said deploying “24/7 pothole patrols to patch small cracks on the road before they supersize into traffic jam-causing craters” would greatly help in easing congestion. – With Paolo Romero

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