MANILA – In the Senate hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee on Friday, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto pointed out that only P180 million was allotted to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the 2013 national budget.
He then questioned why and how the agency was able to secure P3.8-billion funding for its project in producing new motor vehicle plates in replacement to old ones.
“To begin with, they had no authority to bid out that P3.8-billion project. What they did is illegal because there was no funding for that project in the 2013 budget,” Recto said.
“Normally, you can only bid out a project when there’s SARO (Special Allotment Release Order). In this case, there was no SARO, which is why I was wondering how they were able to bid out this big-ticket project,” he added.
The senator also raised hearing complaints from vehicle owners and admitted that he did not see the logic behind replacing all existing plates with new ones as well.
“No matter how I look at it, it does not justify the additional costs for the public,” he said.
Not seeing the soundness of the ‘ill-advised’ policy, Recto then called for an immediate halt to the ongoing replacement of old plates. Rather, he suggested that the installation of new plates be limited to new vehicles up for registration.
The senator just did not see any problem in keeping old license plates.
“Dapat itigil ang policy na iyan. Wala namang problema ang mga plaka. Bakit nila pinipilit na palitan? Anong pakinabang non kundi pahirapan lang ang publiko?,” he asked.
(The policy should be stopped. There’s no problem with the [existing] plates. Why are they insisting on replacing the [old plates]? What’s its benefit but to burden the public?)
Recto asserted that the transportation department should instead focus on more important matters such as easing daily traffic jam, making vehicles less vulnerable to carjacking and improving public transport MRT and LRT trains.
Recto did not, however, completely rule out the project. He said that should the DOTC and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) enlighten the Senate on the policy and prove that there is a good outcome to it, they would then gladly support the agency.
But for the meantime, the senator wanted a reimbursement to those who had already paid for the new motor vehicle plates, P450 to motor vehicle owners and P120 to motorcycle riders.
Before adjourning the session, Recto also recommended speeding the process and cutting down the cost of vehicle registration. He mentioned the public’s difficulty in registering and obtaining clearance for secondhand vehicles.