LTO: Expect new license plates by March 2018

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) — A brief respite from the interminable wait.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) said it expects to start clearing on March 2018 its backlog of 8.2 million license plates for vehicles bought from January 2015 to December 2017.

"The agency has already issued the notice of award (NOA) to the winning bidder in the procurement of license plate in the amount of P978.8 million on 01 December 2017," LTO said in a statement Wednesday.

"The winning bidder, Trojan Computer Forms Manufacturing Corporation and J.H. Tonnjes E.A.S.T. GmbH & Co. KG Joint Venture, has already been required to provide the performance security," the agency added.

But still some 5M plates in limbo

But before motorists think the long wait is over, the LTO told CNN Philippines on Thursday that it can only process and release the 3.4 million plates of vehicles bought from July 2016 to December 2017.

That's because a P3.8-billion contract for the 4.8 million plates for vehicles purchased from January 2015 to June 2016 are still subject to a Notice of Disallowance by the Commission on Audit (COA), said LTO Executive Director Atty. Romeo Vera Cruz.

The COA's order was due to alleged favoritism shown by the Transportation Department on the supplier, Dutch firm J. Knieriem BV-Goes, despite its alleged financial incapacity.

"Once COA lifts the notice, we will reach out to the old supplier to ask if it wants to handle the contract or if we will give it to the new supplier," Vera Cruz said.

In addition, the Supreme Court has not yet lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) it imposed in June 2016 for the distribution of 700,000 imported license plates.

The high court issued the TRO after it found that the importer-supplier did not pay the required Customs duties. LTO Chief Edgar Galvante said some 300,000 of the 700,000 plates are still with the LTO.

"Kung hindi mali-lift 'yung TRO, hindi namin ma-didistribute 'yun," Galvante said, adding that the issue of the plates' distribution was a problem he inherited when he assumed the role.

[Translation: If the TRO is not lifted, we cannot distributed those plates. Again, the distribution of those plates started before my coming to the office.]

The LTO's statement on the awarding of the winning bidder  came after former Transportation Secretary and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called on Galvante to resign for taking too long to resolve the license plate shortage.

Read: House Speaker urges LTO chief to resign over unavailability of license plates

Despite the date for initial deliveries, Alvarez told CNN Philippines that Galvante should still resign.

"Bakit March pa?" he said. "Ang tagal na nating nagtitiis eh. Hindi ko maintindihan kasi simple na problema."

[Translation: Why in March? We've been waiting for so long. I don't understand it because the problem is simple.]

Galvante said the LTO followed the proper procedures in getting a new plate supplier.

"May mga schedule 'yan," he told CNN Philippines on Thursday. "Sumusunod lang tayo sa pamantayan. In short, there's no hanky panky in this," he added.

[Translation: There is a schedule to follow. We were just following the guidelines. In short,  there's no hanky panky in this.]