Aside from the “Republika ng Walang Plaka” predicament, the LTO has had another problem. This time, it involves the supply of the plastic cards used for driver’s licenses. Many were surprised, and most were not, but the common questions among the public are “Why?”, and “How” does something like this even happen? Agency Chief Jay Art Tugade, in an interview, explained.
LTO plastic card procurement hampered by DOTr special order
LTO Chief Jay Art Tugade gave an interview yesterday and went on to explain the reason behind the shortage of plastic license cards. In a nutshell, a “special order” from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) instructed all agencies under its wing that “all procurements PHP 50M and above will be handled and undertaken by the Central Bids and Awards Committee (sic)” of the DOTr. Since the required budget to replenish stocks of the plastic cards goes above that amount, then it’s already out of the LTO’s hands to order a re-stock.
This is where it gets interesting. An inventory was ordered by Tugade when he assumed office in November 2022, and they had already foreseen a likelihood of cards running out and would likely only last until May 2023. At that time, the LTO Chief said that he maintained all committees in charge of procurement within his agency, instructed them to move on with procurement, and had all pre-procurement activities done. However, the DOTr’s special order was given, and that hampered the procurement’s movement.
Tugade said that “good governance” is the basis for the said special order. The Land Transportation Office did ask DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista through much correspondence to maintain the procurement responsibilities with them, but it was supposedly denied by the DOTr.
Asked if the request for procurement could have been done earlier, Tugade replied in the affirmative. He likewise reiterated that “…existing officials within DOTr were already in office since mid-2022…had they really wanted to conduct the early procurement activities, they were already the public officials at that time, they should have done so, and not waited this long (sic)”.
Since then, the procurement process had no movement. In a meeting on March 21, 2023, which included Tugade, Bautista, the CAAP, representatives from the Department of Justice, and representatives from the Government Procurement Policy Board, LTO Chief Tugade said that he expressed his apprehensions to DOTr Sec. Bautista on the procurement delay. It was also during that meeting that Tugade said that the DOTr committed to finishing the procurement in 28 days. A month and a week hence, still nothing.
The reason behind this new delay is a supposed extension that was given by the BAC for the submission of bids alongside the alleged requests of some of the participants. The original deadline for submission was April 24. Supposedly, a lot of questions during the pre-bid conference still needed to be addressed, so the deadline was moved a further 30 days forward to May 24.
Since the plastic card shortage went public, reports said that the DOTr will have the cards replenished by July at the earliest. Tugade said that he and his agency support this statement, and he hopes that they do meet this commitment, indeed. In the time between, no urgency was lost as the LTO would write DOTr at least once a week to follow up on the status and highlight the need and urgency for procurement of plastic cards with no additional delay.
An estimated 5.2 million drivers are seen to be affected by this plastic card shortage.
As a contingency, Tugade said that while waiting for the cards to be restocked and the licenses printed, his agency has already done the following:
- issuance of temporary driver’s licenses to assist student drivers as well
- extension of validity of driver’s licenses expiring on April 24, 2023, onwards to until October 31, 2023
- conducted briefing with all LTO partners (LGUs, PNP, HPG, MMDA, deputized agents, NLEX, SLEX), on accepting and honoring temporary licenses and extended-validity driver’s licenses
So there we have it, straight from LTO Chief Tugade himself. For whatever reason there is, special order, red tape, “good governance”, or internal “chaos”, the fact remains that we now have to resort to a Plan B when problems like this could have been and should be avoided.
There’s not much we can do about it unless the replenishment of plastic license cards miraculously happens, so for now, just take note of the contingencies, check the paper licenses that you’ll most likely be given, and please be a little bit more patient. The LTO and the DOTr are on it if we’re to go on Chief Tugade’s statements. So let’s continue hoping.