Remaining 70,000 driver’s license cards for OFWs – DOTr chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The remaining stock of driver’s license cards available nationwide is reserved for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said on Thursday.

“As of today, I think we only have around 70,000 ID cards available nationwide. And we’re reserving it for OFWs kasi kailangan po nila yung mga IDs na ito [because they need these IDs],” Bautista told senators during a Blue Ribbon committee hearing.

Bautista said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is trying to finalize the purchase of license cards as soon as possible to address the backlog of 690,000 cards -– nearly thrice higher than the reported backlog on May 2.

The transportation secretary said the Land Transportation Office has extended the validity of driver’s licenses expiring on April 24 to October 31. The LTO is temporarily printing driver’s licenses on paper amid the shortage.

READ: Card shortage forces LTO to temporarily print driver’s license on paper

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairperson Senator Francis Tolentino questioned the spike in backlog despite LTO interventions.

“Hindi na nakapag-issue ng mga driver’s license po dahil na-extend na yung validity. [Driver's licenses were no longer issued because the validity had been extended.] Pero we consider these as backlogs already,” Bautista explained.

Bautista said there is a “lowest bidder” for the supply of plastic cards, which officials are assessing. Should the bidder qualify, he said the department may be getting half a million cards in July.

Senator Grace Poe called on transportation officials to speed up the purchase since the ID card shortage affects thousands of Filipinos.

“May mga emergency procurement naman [There are emergency procurements]. Siguro pinapaalala ko rin na yung [May I also remind that the] lowest bidder is not necessarily the best provider of service,” she said.

DOTr vs LTO?

The dwindling supply of plastic cards for driver’s licenses has seemingly uncovered a divide between the DOTr and LTO.

Former LTO chief Jay Art Tugade earlier said the agency was prepared to acquire plastic cards as early as January, but was halted after it received a directive from the Transport secretary that all procurement efforts worth P50 million and above should go through the DOTr.

Senators called on Bautista to utilize his powers to overrule the decision of the LTO chief in future instances to avoid a repeat of the license card mess.

Former LTO chief Teofilo Guadiz said the problem stemmed from the changes made in the contract with plastic card providers.

“The contract was originally for six months deliverable 'yan. Then it was amended 12 times. Nagkaroon ho ng problema [There were problems] because of these amendments, which I would say would give undue advantage to the government,” he said.

The Senate probe was launched to look into the alleged “undue payment” given by the LTO to the joint venture of information technology contractor Dermalog Identification System, Holy Family Printing Corp., Microgenesis, and Verzontal Builders.