Senator Recto supports transport dept’s plan to manufacture car plates locally

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is backing the transportation department’s plan to manufacture car plates locally, saying the move 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 vehicle owners who have paid for new car plates but have not received them.

Tugade however said the refund might only be partial.

“Siguro ay portion, hindi kabuuan (Maybe only a portion, not the entire fund),” he said when asked by Recto if the department could at least study the motorists’ demand for refund.

On the same topic, Tugade said the solution to the delayed issuance of car plates lies in manufacturing them locally.

The government could buy the machines and manufacture the plates and even driver’s license cards, so it could control the supply, he said.

This could be carried out in the medium term, he added.

Asked by Recto if the authority to procure the needed equipment is included in the emergency powers being sought by President Duterte from Congress to solve the traffic crisis, Tugade replied that he would welcome the emergency powers if given, more so if it covers efforts to release the 300,000 embargoed plates.

The transportation chief was referring to Dutch-made car plates, part of the 15.2 million plates to be supplied under a PHP3.85 billion contract, but has been blocked by a Commission on Audit finding that any payment made would violate government auditing and anti-graft laws.

Tugade however stressed that what is needed is equipment so the government could manufacture plates with analytics that could trace and monitor ‘colorum’ vehicles.

Recto said the department’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 buyer of supplies and equipment, with a budget of hundreds of billions annually. “From soap to cars, from paper to guns, government buys these in bulk,” he said.

For 2016, the national government alone will be buying PHP73.5 billion worth of supplies and materials, many of them “common-use” items for offices but also medicine for hospitals and parts for its vehicle fleet.

To the extent allowed by law, the government must choose local products or those with high local content, Recto said.

On the case of the car plates, Recto asked if the plates really needed to be manufactured in the Netherlands.

“Hindi ba yan pwede gawin ng mga Pilipino? (Can’t the Filipinos manufacture that?)” he added.

“If we’re buying boats for coastal or river patrol, then let our shipyards in Subic, Cebu and Bataan make them,” Recto said. “If other nations find them exceptional, then we should too.” PNA/