Government printer to produce driver’s license cards

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Government printer to produce driver�s license cards
Stock image of LTO driver’s license
Philstar.com / Jovannie Lambayan

National Printing Office to deliver 5 million cards in 60 days

MANILA, Philippines — To speed up the release of plastic driver’s license cards while at the same time cutting cost, the Department of Transportation is tapping the National Printing Office (NPO) to produce the cards, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista disclosed yesterday.

Under the deal, the NPO will produce an initial five million plastic driver’s license cards for delivery to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) within 60 days, Bautista told The STAR.

Bautista met last Tuesday with NPO director Carlos Bathan at the DOTr main office to discuss the government agency-to-agency emergency procurement.

Bautista gave Bathan the terms of reference (TOR), and the NPO chief said he would submit the final proposal within the week.

Last Jan. 25, Bautista had issued a special order “in the exigency and best interest of the service,” requiring all procurements above P50 million in the department and its sectoral offices – including the LTO and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board – to be handled by the DOTr’s central bids and awards committee (CBAC).

The CBAC conducts competitive bidding that is recorded and streamed online.

Last month, LTO chief Jose Arturo Tugade said the agency would run out of plastic cards by the end of April because of the delayed procurement, which LTO officials blamed on the DOTr order.

License plates were also running out, the LTO said.

Amid concerns raised by motorists, Tugade announced the extension up to Oct. 31 this year of the validity of all driver’s license cards expiring by April 24.

On the other hand, a timeline of the license card procurement prepared by the DOTr showed that the LTO had a window for early procurement of the plastic cards between Aug. 22 last year, when the proposed national expenditure program for 2023 was submitted by Malacañang to Congress, and Dec. 16 when the General Appropriations Act was enacted, allocating over P541.5 million for the procurement.

But the early procurement was not done.

Before the special order was issued, the DOTr had allowed 18 procurement deals already being handled for the LTO by the controversial Procurement Service of the Department of the Budget and Management to proceed.

The LTO submitted to the DOTr the initial terms of reference (TOR) for bidding for the license cards on March 21 this year. After a review of the TOR and two pre-procurement conferences with the CBAC on March 27 and 29, the DOTr posted the bidding documents on April 4. A pre-bidding conference was held on April 12.

Industry sources said some prospective bidders pointed out that the posted TOR prepared by the LTO appeared tailored for just one particular bidder.

This prompted a review of the TOR by the DOTr “to promote competition and invite as many prospective bidders to get the most responsive and advantageous bid,” according to the DOTr timeline.

Another option, however, is to have the NPO produce the plastic license cards under a direct arrangement between the two government agencies, which will no longer require public bidding.

This is what Bautista has decided to do.

But transport groups are divided over the government-to-government procurement arrangement decided by the DOTr.?Interviewed by The STAR, Mar Valbuena, president of the group Manibela, maintained that the procurement of driver’s licenses “should undergo the bidding process and ensure transparency on the use of taxpayers’ money.”

On the other hand, Piston president Mody Floranda is pleased with the development. “We’ve been saying that the government should print the licenses and plates (and) can tap the National Printing Office.”?Floranda took a swipe at the LTO for issuing a paper instead of the plastic card to motorists renewing their driver’s license.

“Imagine when you are renewing and you only receive paper. It is better for the national government to manage the printing of the licenses and plates,” he said.

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