By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

LTO chief, Assistant Secretary Vigor Mendoza II. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Land Transportation Office (LTO) on Monday warned of another possible shortage of plastic cards for driver’s licenses if a writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) is granted in favor of its previous card supplier, Allcard, Inc.

In a press conference, LTO chief Assistant Secretary Vigor Mendoza II said a Quezon City regional trial court has issued a WPI that aims to stop the delivery of plastic cards to LTO offices.

“Itong injunction po ay hindi pa ho effective sapagkat inutusan din ng korte ang petitioner sa kasong ‘yun, si Allcard, na magbigay ng injunction bond in the amount of PHP6 million (This injunction is not yet in effect because the court also ordered the petitioner, Allcard, to give an injunction bond in the amount of PHP6 million),” Mendoza said.

Compared to the previous temporary restraining order that resulted a license card shortage, he said the WPI does not expire until the court makes its decision on the case, through a motion for reconsideration or if the WPI is reversed by the Court of Appeals.

“But until such time na magkaroon ng reversal o panibagong order galing sa mga korte, kapag naging effective itong WPI, we will be forced to comply (But until such time a reversal or a new order is released by the court, if the WPI takes effect, we will be forced to comply),” he said.

With the WPI in effect, the LTO can only release driver’s licenses that expired in May and June.

“Kapag lumabas na po ang injunction na ‘yan, we will not be able to cover ‘yung current usage. ‘Yung pang-araw araw na nag-a-apply (If that injunction happens, we will not be able to cover the current usage, those who apply daily) for November and December,” he said.

To date, he said the LTO issues an average of 500,000 to 600,000 licenses per month, making up a total of around 1.9 million cards so far with current contractor Banner Plasticard, Inc.

“Ang total package niyan ay 5.2 million. More or less 3.3 million para matapos na ho ang ating kontrata. Hindi pa naman humihinto ang ating supplier dahil like I said, hindi pa naman effective ‘yung WPI (The total package is 5.2 million, more or less 3.3 million before the contract is complete. Our supplier hasn’t stopped yet because like I said, the WPI is not yet in effect),” he said.

To avoid a similar shortage in license cards next year, the LTO has already started the bidding for next year’s plastic cards.

“Ngayon pa lang sinisimulan na ang bidding process para sa ganoon ay dire-diretso po ‘yan, short of making an award kasi hindi pa naman na-approve ‘yung 2024 budget (We have already started bidding so it will all go smoothly short of making an award because the budget for 2024 is yet to be approved),” he said.

The next plastic card contract, he said, will consist of 4.6 million plastic cards that should be enough supply for nine months beginning January 2024.

“We’re hoping na ‘yung 4.6 million cards na i-oorder natin ang tutugon sa pangangailangan natin until the third quarter of the year, including the backlog na mag-carry over (We’re hoping that the 4.6 million cards that we’re going to order will last until the 3rd quarter of the year, including the backlog that will carry over),” he said.

To eliminate delays and other issues, he said a possible government-to-government contract with the National Printing Office (NPO) is being eyed for the supply of plastic cards.

“That is subject for discussion still. Hindi pa natin alam ang kapasidad ng ating NPO (We still don’t know the capacity of the NPO),” he said.

In addition, he said an LTO technical working group is studying the possibility of electronic driver’s licenses (e-licenses).

“Halos tapos na po para mapag-aralan bago ipatupad itong e-license, at least for domestic use man lang. Ito ang tinitignan nating (We’re also done with the study for the elicense, at least for domestic use. This is what we’re looking at as) long-term solution for this driver’s license problem,” he said.

Once rolled out, he said e-licenses may save the government around PHP300 to PHP400 million per year. (PNA)