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MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers on Monday, June 8, grilled the Land Transportation Office for what they perceived to be the agency's lack of planning for its much-criticized license plate standardization program.
During a meeting of the House committee on Metro Manila development, lawmakers asked the LTO why it did not pre-order enough new plates for the estimated 5 million plates it seeks to replace by 2017.
The LTO has gotten flak not only for the added cost to motorists, but also for the delays in issuing the new plates, with many motorists reporting months-long waiting periods.
LTO administrative division head Maribel Salazar said the agency's long-term goal is to replace an estimated 5 million car license plates by 2017.
For this year, the LTO ordered around 1.5 million new plates from its supplier, the joint venture of Power Plates Development Concepts Incorporated and Dutch firm J. Knieriem BV-Goes (PPI-JKG).
But Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice said the LTO should have already ordered all 5 million plates to avoid delays in the release of the new plates.
"You say you need to replace 5 million plates. But why did you order only 1.5 million?" he asked.
Salazar explained that while there are already pre-ordered plates for new vehicle registrations, the LTO does not pre-order plates for old vehicles. She said that the agency only orders license plates for old vehicles once their registrations are renewed.
"We cannot pre-order license plates for old vehicles because there are also many cars that are no longer operational, no longer in use or are in storage. We only order when their registration is renewed," she said.
Makati City 1st District Representative Monique Lagdameo was not satisfied with Salazar's answer. She pointed out that the LTO should be able to see from their database which vehicles have constantly had their registrations renewed year after year.
In recent weeks, the LTO has been summoned to the House of Representatives and the Senate to explain its license plate standardization program and its "No Registration, No Travel" policy.
Critics have hit the program, with Senator Ralph Recto pointing out that it offered no clear benefits to vehicle owners who already have existing license plates.
The LTO has also come under scrutiny for alleged irregularities in the bidding process for its P3.8 billion ($85.02 million) license plate deal.