Land Transportation Office

Motorcycle and car license plates may run out by June, July – LTO

Lance Spencer Yu

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Motorcycle and car license plates may run out by June, July – LTO

Land Transportation Office (LTO) Chief Jay Art Tugade leads the traning session for its traffic personnel on the use the agency's new devices that will be used for traffic enforcement in the country, during ceremonies at the LTO Main Office in Quezon City on January 30, 2023. The devices, an E-top or temporary operators permit for traffic violators and a body worn mobile camera device to be used as documentation for traffic apprehension both for the protection of the enforcer and the motorist.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) The Land Transportation Office clarifies that motorists are forbidden by law from printing their own license plates, unless they are authorized by the agency

MANILA, Philippines – It’s not just driver’s license cards that are running out; soon, motor vehicles might not have any license plates either. The Land Transportation Office (LTO) cautioned that license plates could face a shortage as early as June.

“Based on the forecast of the LTO, license plates will run out for motorcycles by June, and by July, the license plates for motor vehicles will be depleted as well,” LTO chief Jose Arturo “Jay Art” Tugade said on ANC’s Headstart.

Although LTO still has supplies of license plates on hand, Tugade said that another shortage could happen if the procurement process faced delays. He explained that the procurement for the plates has been transferred to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in compliance with an order issued by the department – a situation similar to what caused the current lack of driver’s license cards.

“The DOTr has been fully informed of this situation. Since the budget of the license plates is P4.5 billion, it is the DOTr that is in charge of procuring these items,” Tugade said on Wednesday, April 26.

Under the relevant DOTr special order, procurement transactions that exceed P50 million in budget are now handled by the DOTr Central Office rather than by the specific agency.

“When we received the special order in January, almost every week, we sent a letter to the Department of Transportation – pleading – respectfully requesting for them to reconsider the special order because we did not want to come to this. We did not want to eventually come to a situation wherein we would run out of plastic cards, and a situation wherein we would run out of plates. Again, our requests went unheeded and were denied,” Tugade said.

‘Bawal mag-print ng sariling plaka’

Despite the looming shortage, Tugade emphasized that motorists are not allowed to print their own license plates unless they explicitly secure an authorization form from the LTO.

Bawal po magprint ng sariling plaka. Bawal po gumawa ng sariling plaka (You are not allowed to print your own plate. You are not allowed to make your own plate),” Tugade said in a hastily called press conference on Thursday, April 27. 

Besides the official license plates given by the LTO, there are only two other plates allowed: a temporary plate and an improvised plate. 

The temporary plate refers to the one affixed onto a newly bought motorcycle or car. This comes straight from the dealer. For motorcycles, the temporary plate should display the motor vehicle file number. For cars, the number on the plate should match the vehicle’s conduction sticker.

Since 2017, meron na pong polisiya ang LTO sa paggamit ng temporary plates. Hindi lang po ito basta-bastang plaka (Since 2017, LTO already had a policy regarding temporary plates. It’s not baseless),” Tugade said, explaining that there were specific requirements regarding the plate’s material, font, design, and layout.  

The improvised plate, on the other hand, refers to a plate created by a motorist that has an existing plate in need of replacement. Those with dilapidated, lost, or stolen plates may apply for an improvised plate. To do so, the owner must first secure authorization from the LTO. 

Kailangan pong pumunta kayo sa LTO office at humingi po ng authorization to use an improvised plate. ‘Pag binigyan na po kayo ng authorization to use an improvised plate, p’wede po kayo ngayon maggawa ng plaka – improvised for the time being,” Tugade said during the press conference.

(You have to go to the LTO office and ask for an authorization to use an improvised plate. Once you secure this, then you can make a plate, which is improvised for the time being.)

Tugade said that traffic enforcers would most likely stop vehicles with an improvised plate, as the plate does not conform with the standard LTO-issued ones. Motorists are advised to bring their official receipt and certificate of registration to avoid being ticketed.

Itong paggawa ng improvised license plates ay masasabing exception sa general rule na bawal gumawa ng sariling plaka pero dapat ay nasusunod ang panuntunan ng LTO hinggil dito,” he said.

(Making improvised license plates is an exception to the general rule not to create your own plate, but LTO regulations must still be followed.)

In a previous interview on Wednesday, Tugade alluded to a contingency plan that would allow motorists to create their own plates should the LTO run out of license plates.

“For motorcycles and for the four-wheeled vehicles, we are working on a contingency that we have now. One of the contingencies that we have in place is to allow the temporary issuances of motor vehicle plates and motorcycle plates by the owner. For example, ‘yung motorcycle owners, in the absence of a plate number, they can create a plate number, and on the plate number, it will say the motor vehicle file number of the motorcycle,” Tugade said on Wednesday.

This plate bearing the file number will be used in identifying the motor vehicle for the time being. Tugade said that the number displayed on the plates could be checked against the vehicle’s certificate of registration, which contains the file number, should the need arise. 

However, the LTO chief now clarified that motorists cannot print their own “do-it-yourself” license plates. They may only use the temporary plates on their newly purchased vehicles or comply with the process in securing improvised plates.

He also acknowledged that resorting to these plates could benefit those with criminal intent and inconvenience those who might not keep their vehicle’s certificate of registration always on hand.

“This is one of the reasons why we should really push for the procurement of these license plates. As much as possible, we should exert all efforts to avoid a situation wherein we will run out of license plates. Again, I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to the Department of Transportation to fast-track and conclude the procurement of license plates,” he said during the Wednesday interview.

At the same time, the LTO is also struggling with a shortage in driver’s license. The agency claimed that it remained hamstrung by the same department order, with the procurement process for the much-needed plastic cards expected to drag on for months. 

“As to their commitment on having their procurement finished by July, we fully support and we pray that the DOTr does meet their commitment, the deadline that they gave, which is July, because we at the LTO really badly need the plastic cards in order for us to issue them to the applicants,” Tugade said.

Until then, the LTO is issuing paper licenses to those applying for or renewing their licenses. More than five million motorists may face delays on the release of their plastic driver’s license cards.

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.