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Opinion

EDITORIAL - 11.5 million license plate backlog

The Philippine Star

The country relies on imports for many of its basic needs, from rice to sugar, salt and manufactured goods. Until a few years ago, the country was not even producing its own vehicle license plates. Amid an atrocious backlog of 8.2 million in license plates from January 2015 to December 2017, the country finally inaugurated its own plate-making plant in Quezon City on April 24, 2018.

At the time, the government said the new machines were expected to churn out 3.4 million plates that had been pending since July 2016. Production of the plates paid for upon vehicle registration from January 2015 to 2016 was derailed by a notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit for the release of P3.8 billion that the Department of Transportation was supposed to pay to Dutch supplier J. Knieriem BV-Goes. The COA notice was ostensibly due to favoritism by the DOTr in picking the foreign supplier.

Production of motorcycle license plates, meanwhile, was also stalled by the redesign of the plates, as mandated under Republic Act 11235 passed in 2019.

Following the opening of the local plate making plant in 2018, the Land Transportation Office said its seven manual embossing machines could produce at least 22,400 license plates daily. By June 18, 2018, the machines had produced 387,000 pieces of motor vehicle plates. Local production, however, could not keep up with the demand. Last Sept. 27 during budget deliberations at the House of Representatives for the DOTr and its attached agencies, LTO officials admitted that the backlog for motor vehicle license plates stood at a whopping 11.5 million.

A lawmaker sponsoring the DOTr budget attributed the backlog to zero funding allocated for license plate production since 2017. For 2023, funding has been appropriated in the national budget for license plate production, but the P4.7 billion that has been recommended by the Department of Budget and Management is below the P6.8 billion proposed by the DOTr for the purpose. If the P2.1 billion could be restored in the DOTr budget, the lawmaker maintained, there would be no more excuse for the license plate backlog.

Last August, LTO officials said they planned to hire more employees so the stamping plant in Quezon City could operate around the clock and end the backlog. But they need funds to procure the materials for the plates as well as spare parts for the five-year-old engraving machines, the LTO said. They added that the plate production could also be outsourced to a third-party contractor to cover the backlog.

LTO officials have reassured the public that fees for license plates are remitted to the National Treasury. They also maintain that the LTO is fully capable of producing the needed plates. The continuing massive backlog in vehicle license plates, however, speaks volumes about the quality of government services, and must be addressed decisively by the new administration.

COA

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