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'LTO should compel supplier to issue license plates'

MANILA, Philippines – Faced with complaints over the lack of new vehicle license plates, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) should take charge and compel the supplier to deliver on their responsibilities and avoid making the public suffer.

This was suggested by Edward Ferreira, who lost in the bidding for the P3.8 billion LTO license plate deal, during a Senate blue ribbon subcommittee hearing on Monday, May 25. 

He said Power Plates Development Concepts Incorporated and J. Knieriem BV-Goes should be held accountable for failing to deliver the new license plates on time.

In 2013, the company won the contract for the supply and delivery of new license plates for the LTO's License Plates Standardization Program.

But the unavailability of the new plates has been a problem for many motorists, especially after the LTO announced that it would strictly implement its "No registration, no travel" policy beginning April 1.

Under the policy, vehicle owners who cannot show proof that they have already registered their vehicles will face penalties.

Many motorists called the policy "unfair," saying it was not their fault their dealers had not yet turned over the plates for their new vehicles.

During the Senate's joint public hearing on Monday, Ferreira said the Senate subcommittee should look into the responsibilities of the LTO and the supplier under the contract.

"It's the LTO's responsibility to compel the supplier to follow [the schedule of delivery]. The public is suffering. There are responsibilities that have to be undertaken both by the supplier and the LTO," Ferreira said.

He added that in the bidding documents, the supplier is directed to deliver a specific number of license plates within a given period.

"If those plates were really religiously supplied by supplier, this problem of unavailability of plates won't arise," he said.

Chaired by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, the Senate subcommittee is investigating allegations that the transportation department's bids and awards committee allegedly favored Dutch firm J. Knieriem BV-Goes despite its alleged financial incapacity and inexperience.

The Senate is also probing the LTO's "No registration, no travel" policy to determine the cause of the delay in the release of license plates. (READ: After buying new car, you should receive your plate within 7 days)

Delay in submitting documents

LTO chief Alfonso Tan Jr, however, maintained that the agency was not at fault for the delays in the release of the new plates.

Since the policy came under fire two months ago, he has repeatedly said that the LTO is able to issue new license plates within 7 days once documents are submitted to the agency.

Tan has also advised car owners to ask their dealers if they have all the required documents needed to register the vehicles.

"If we follow the regular timeline, we can finish the process in 7 days or less. But the problem is, when are the documents submitted to us?" he said.

George Blaylock, president of the Philippine Automotive Association, backed up Tan's claims, saying that dealers who don't submit documents on time remain LTO's "biggest problem."

"Some dealers take time to bring the documents to the LTO, that's the biggest problem that [LTO chief] Tan has…. Right now [the dealers] are taking an average of 8 to 10 days," Blaylock said.

Blaylock also denied suggestions that dealers are trying to save time and money by waiting for the number of registration documents to pile up before having them processed at the LTO.

Meanwhile, Tan gave assurances that his agency is communicating with car dealers to determine how to speed up the release of the new plates.

For now, the controversial policy remains. But the LTO chief said that motorists need not be worried, as long as they have their registration documents to show as proof.

"Clear sa LTO enforcers kung kailan dapat at hindi dapat manghuli. Kung ticket namin ang ginamit, pwede i-contest," he said. (It's clear to LTO enforcers when to make apprehensions. If our ticke is issued, motorists can contest that.) – Rappler.com