MANILA, Philippines – Motorists could be one step closer to finally getting their long-overdue license plates, with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) planning to turn over 600,000 pieces to the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said on Thursday, April 7, that the BOC is just waiting for approval from the Department of Finance (DOF).
He explained that the duties and taxes, which remain unpaid, can be waived if the goods will go to another government agency.
“The duties and taxes can be waived by BOC, but the final decision is up to the Finance Secretary [Cesar Purisima],” Lina said.
The license plates are in the 11 container vans that were declared abandoned at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last February.
The private importer of the license plates, JKG-PPI – a joint venture of Dutch firm J Knieriem BV-Goes and Power Plates Development Concepts Incorporated – incurred duties and taxes of about P40 million, but failed to pay up within the prescribed period.
Last month, JKG-PPI filed an appeal with the BOC to lift the abandonment status of the shipments.
But Lina’s spokesperson Belle Maestro said the bureau has rejected JKG-PPI’s appeal.
“The consignee didn’t comply [with] the procedures. LTO will make sure that the consignee will be held liable,” she said.
Lina’s decision to seek approval from the DOF regarding the turnover was spurred by a letter from the LTO, which asked the BOC to just donate the license plates stuck at the MICP.
“DOF lawyers are studying how to proceed with the donation,” Maestro said.
Lina thumbed down the idea of holding a public auction for the license plates.
“The car plates belong to the government. As the commissioner, I have to protect the interest of the country. If these fall into other hands through auction, these may be used somewhere else,” the Customs chief said.
The license plates are part of the long delayed license plate standardization program of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), for which JKG-PPI bagged the P3.8-billion contract to supply new plates in 2013 but failed to deliver.
Last year, the LTO came under fire from motorists after it announced that it would strictly implement its “No registration, no travel” policy beginning April 1, 2015.
Under the policy, vehicle owners who cannot show proof that they have already registered their vehicles would face penalties.
The bidding process for the new license plates, however, came under scrutiny.
In May 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) ordered the LTO to stop paying JKG-PPI, pending its investigation into the deal.
Last January, the LTO filed a motion for reconsideration asking the COA to lift the notice of disallowance.
LTO chief Roberto Cabrera III previously told Rappler that the COA would also have to lift its order before the license plates can be processed. – Rappler.com