Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is backing the plan of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to manufacture car plates locally – a move, he said, “which would prevent a repeat of imported plates being seized at ports over a dispute in Customs duties.”
Recto also welcomed Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade’s statement made before senators Wednesday that he would study the possibility of refunding motor vehicle owners who have paid for new car plates but have not received them.
Tugade, however, said the refund may only be partial. “Siguro ay portion, hindi kabuuan,” he said when asked by Recto if motorists’ demands for refunds will at least be studied by his agency.
On the same topic, Tugade said that the solution to the delayed issuance of motor vehicle license plates lies in manufacturing them locally.
Queried by Recto on when the plates will be released, Tugade said the problem is “kung bakit ba yung plaka ginagawa pa kung saan-saan? Di ba pwede gawin dito?”
Tugade said government can buy the machines and be the one to make the plates “and even driver’s license cards” so government can “control the supply.”
“Nabanggit ho ng kasama ko kanina na plano naming kung pwede ho ay bilhin na ang machine then apply an expanded analytics on the plates,” Tugade said.
This can be implemented, Tugade said, “on the medium-term, gusto ko ho iyon, para kontrolado natin ‘yung supply and demand.”
Asked by Recto if the authority to procure the needed equipment is included in the emergency powers President Duterte is asking from Congress to solve the traffic crisis, Tugade replied that he would welcome it if given, moreso if it would lead to the release of embargoed plates.
“Kung masasaklaw sa mga kasulatan na ilalagay sa emergency power para ma-address ko yung mga nandito na ngayon in relation to our relationship with the Commission on Audit (COA), bakit hindi? Para mai-withdraw ko yung 300,000 plates, at least makakatulong yon,” Tugade said.
The DOTr chief was referring to Dutch-made car plates, part of the 15.2 million pieces to be supplied under a P3.85 billion contract, but has been blocked by a COA finding that any payment made would violate government auditing and anti-graft laws.
But what is needed is equipment, Tugade stressed, “so magpagawa na ng mga plaka dito ngayon at magpadala ako dito ng equipment with the analytics that can trace and monitor yung tinatawag na colorum.”
Recto said DOTr’s plan to stamp “smart” car plates locally must be replicated in other government purchases as part of a wider “Buy Philippine-Made” policy.
“The big picture is that by buying local, government will be supporting local firms, creating local jobs and giving manufacturing a much-needed boost,” he said.
The senator described the government as a huge supplies and equipment buyer, with a budget in the hundreds of billions annually. “From soap to cars, from paper to guns, government buys these in bulk.”
For 2016, the national government alone will be buying P73.5 billion worth of supplies and materials, many “common-use” items for offices but also medicine for hospitals and parts for its vehicle fleet.
To the extent allowed by law, government must prefer local products or those with high local content in shopping for these, Recto said.
“In the case of car plates, kailangan pa ba talaga made in Netherlands ang mga yan? Hindi ba yan pwede gawin ng mga Pilipino?” Recto asked.
“If we’re buying boats for coastal or river patrol, then let our shipyards in Subic, Cebu and Bataan make them,” he said. “If other nations find them exceptional, then we should too.”