Is My License Plate Available? LTO Plate Number Updates You Should Know

Published: July 15, 2021 | Updated: July 27, 2021 | Posted by: Ricky Publico | Government Services


LTO plate number | Moneymax

One of the most common problems of vehicle owners in the Philippines is acquiring their LTO plate number. These plates serve as proof of legitimacy and as a vehicle’s identifier in terms of registration, road violations, and compliance with government laws. 

Although most car owners of newly registered cars in 2020 and 2021 were able to secure the plates within one month after registration, many are still waiting for their LTO plate number release. 

Curious to know when new plate numbers in the Philippines will be released this 2021? It looks like a long wait ahead. Just recently, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) said it’s looking for help from outside the agency to produce 18 million plates.[1] This number comprises the plate numbers for motorcycles and cars that have not been released since 2013. According to the LTO, processing the backlog will take around 40 months, or more than three years, if they don’t get help from third-party suppliers. 

Why Do You Need an LTO Plate Number?

You might be wondering why there’s so much clamor to speed up the LTO new plate number release. It’s basically for safety and security reasons. Together with your car or motorcycle’s official receipt and Certificate of Registration (OR/CR), the LTO plate number serves as a vehicle’s identity. 

In February this year, Senator Richard Gordon called for the sacking of LTO officials because of their failure to implement the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act of 2019 due to LTO’s backlog in plate number production. Gordon considered the delay in the issuance of bigger and more readable license plates as the cause of over 36,000 riding-in-tandem crimes from 2010-2020.

With a visible identifier even from a distance, motorists are assured that violators can be caught and penalized. Without a plate number in the Philippines, law enforcers would need to chase or flag down vehicles just to check the registration and driver’s license. 

Read more: List of LTO Fees for Car Registration, Driver’s License, and Violations

The LTO Plate Number Delay Timeline

LTO plate number - license plate release
Instagram photo by @poyiegs

2013 –  LTO and DOTr awarded the manufacturing contract to the joint venture of Knieriem BV Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc., as part of the five-year Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program.

2015 – The Commission on Audit issued a Notice of Disallowance covering the advance payment made by the LTO to the suppliers in June and July 2014 amounting to PHP 477 million. According to the DOTr, of the 15 million license plates, only four million were released, resulting in a backlog of 11 million. 

2016 – The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the LTO and the Department of Transportation and Communication from releasing and distributing 700,000 license plates[2] from the Bureau of Customs after the plates’ supplier-importer failed to pay the required customs duties.

2018 – The Supreme Court lifted the TRO, and the COA also lifted the disallowance, which allowed the distribution of 300,000 license plates for cars and 400,000 license plates for motorcycles, amounting to  PHP 477,901,329. 

In the same year, LTO inaugurated its motor vehicle plate production plant[3] to highlight its 106th Founding Anniversary. The facility can print up to 22,400 pieces of motor vehicle plates per day.

2021 – LTO is seeking suppliers to help them cover their 18 million backlogs.

2022 – LTO is expected to print and release 19 million new plate numbers in the Philippines.

LTO’s Efforts to Reduce License Plate Release Backlogs

In 2020, LTO-13 Caraga released over 35,000 motorcycle plates which are bigger and contain three numbers and three letters as required by the Doble Plaka Law. 

LTO-13 also released lavender-colored motorcycle plates for Caraga which is different from other regions. In addition, LTO-NCR released around 70,000 motorcycle plates[4] out of its 1,386,895 backlogs. 

As of May 2021, LTO Central Visayas (LTO-7) already released all registration documents of vehicles sold on or before April 30, 2021. According to Regional Director Victor Emmanuel Caindec, vehicle owners can now contact their dealers to ask for their registration documents. Moreover, LTO-7 also announced that 18,000 motorcycle plates are ready to claim. 

Other LTO offices that gradually reduced their LTO plate number backlog include LTO-CAR with 8,000 safety-compliant plates and LTO-9 Zamboanga Peninsula, which released around 600,000 motorcycle plate backlog earlier this year. 

Read more: Complete List of LTO Branches in Metro Manila

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LTO License Plate Rules and Updates Every Motorist Should Know

1. You Can Verify Your License Plate Availability

Yes, you have different options for checking if your LTO plate number is available for release.

How to Check LTO Plate Number Availability

  1. One way to check your LTO plate number availability is to text LTOVEHICLE<space>plate number of your car and send it to 2600.
  2. You can also head to the Motor Vehicle 7-Character Plate Backlog Inquiry page (lto.net.ph) and enter your MV file number or also known as Motor Vehicle number.
  3. Try calling the car dealership where you bought your car and see if they have your plate number.

There are other ways to check your car or motorcycle plate availability:

  • By contacting the LTO Regional offices where your vehicle registration was submitted. Check the Official Facebook Pages of LTO Regional Offices for more information.
  • By coordinating with your dealer
  • By calling the LTO Plate Unit hotline 02 8922-9063 local 225
  • By checking the LTO portal. Click ONLINE SERVICES at the bottom page of the portal then choose MOTOR VEHICLE 7-CHARACTER PLATE BACKLOG INQUIRY. You will be asked to enter your vehicle’s MV file number. Once done, the status of your new LTOplate number release will appear.

How to Get Your Plate Number in LTO

You may get your new plate number yourself or assign a representative to do so. Make sure to bring these documents when claiming your plate number from the LTO:

  • Certificate of Registration (CR)
  • Latest Official Receipt (OR) of payment
  • Government-issued ID

If no plate number is printed on your CR, the LTO will issue a certification that the new plate number given to you is assigned to your vehicle. LTO will also record your assigned plate number in its database.

The LTO may also ask for additional documents. For example, the LTO in Central Visayas requires vehicle owners to furnish an affidavit that allows their dealers to claim their license plates from the regional office.

How to Apply for a Replacement LTO License Plate

  1. File an affidavit of loss or mutilation at the LTO office where your car is currently registered.
  2. Submit your OR/CR, PNP-Highway Patrol Group clearance, and other LTO requirements.
  3. Have LTO inspect your car and issue an accomplished and approved Motor Vehicle Inspection Report (MVIR).
  4. Pay the replacement plate cost at the cashier and get your proof of payment.
  5. Get a copy of LTO’s authorization to use an improvised plate, which is valid for 90 days.

2. Your Temporary License Plate Should Follow LTO Official Specs

LTO plate number - temporary plate format

For those who still have to wait for license plates, you can still use a temporary license plate. The LTO provided temporary license plate specs for “uniformity and ease of visual recognition.” These specs apply to vehicles released from February 15, 2017, onwards:

  • Use of conduction sticker number and MV file number as temporary license plate numbers (the MV file number can be found on the Certificate of Registration from LTO)
  • Reflective sturdy material
  • Arial Black font
  • Use of the LTO’s official temporary plate design and layout
  • Name of the dealer to be placed at the end of the plate for tricycles and motorcycles, and on the sides for four-wheel vehicles

Car dealers who don’t comply with the rules will be fined. Using a non-standardized temporary license plate or one without an MV file number might also cause you to get pulled over by a traffic enforcer.

So make sure your newly purchased vehicle has a standardized temporary plate attached to it, complete with the conduction sticker number, MV file number, and dealer’s name. Otherwise, call the dealer’s attention to it before the vehicle is released.

3. There’s a Law for Preventing Motorcycle Crimes

LTO plate number - Doble Plaka Law
Photo from PhilStar.com

Republic Act 11235 or the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, otherwise known as the Doble Plaka Law, requires the use of bigger, readable, and color-coded number plates for every motorcycle to secure citizens against crimes involving riding-in-tandem. 

Important provisions included in the RA 11235 are as follows:

Display Instructions

Motorcycles are required to use a metal plate at the rear of the motorcycle and a decal number plate to be displayed in front of the vehicle. 

Color Scheme

The LTO created a color scheme for new plate numbers in the Philippines:  

  • White background and red alphanumeric characters for government motorcycles
  • Yellow background and black alphanumeric characters for public utility motorcycles
  • White background with color stripe (dependent on the region) and black alphanumeric characters
  • White background and blue alphanumeric characters for diplomatic motorcycles

Specifications

The measurements of plate numbers for motorcycles should be as follows:

  • Decal plate – Sticker material of 135mm in width and 85mm in height
  • Metal plate – Aluminum substrate of 235mm in width, and 135mm in height

Penalties, Fines, and Punishments

  • Failure to register within five days from purchase or to report after the sale: PHP 20,000 up to PHP 50,000
  • Driving without a number plate or readable number plate: PHP 50,000 up to PHP 100,000
  • Erasing, tampering, forging, covering of number plates: PHP 50,000 up to PHP 100,000
  • Using a motorcycle for the commission of a crime: reclusion temporal (12 to 20 years imprisonment) to reclusion perpetua (20 to 40 years imprisonment)

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Law on March 8, 2019. The LTO was supposed to implement the Doble Plaka Law immediately. But it had to be delayed because of the pandemic and to give way for more safety features to the license plate, including an RFID sticker, QR Code, and reflectorized sheeting. 

Additional LTO License Plate Reminders

1. You Still Can’t Apply for a Vanity Plate Yet

LTO plate number - vanity plate
Photo by Charlesng85 via Wikimedia Commons

With the delayed license plate release, getting a vanity plate is totally impractical. Besides, LTO has temporarily suspended applications for Optional Motor Vehicle Special Plates since December 15, 2017.[5]

Read more: LTO Vanity Plate: The Pros and Cons of Customizing Your Plate Number

2. Driving Without a License Plate Can Get You in Trouble

It goes without saying, but it’s illegal to drive without a license plate. This is primarily because of LTO’s “No Registration, No Travel” policy. If you’re caught driving an unregistered car without a license plate, you’ll be slapped with a fine. Worse, your vehicle might be impounded.

Don’t risk it—register your car or renew your registration ASAP. Also, bring your OR/CR (Official Receipt/Certificate of Registration) each time you drive.

3. Your License Plate Number is Permanent

lto plate number - license plate is permanent

Want to change your license plate? Maybe its alphanumeric combo is bad for Feng Shui, or it reminds you of your ex’s initials and anniversary date. Or you just don’t like it at all.

Don’t even think about it. LTO doesn’t allow motor vehicle plate change, citing Batas Pambansa Blg. 43 that imposes permanent assignment of a license plate to a vehicle during its lifetime. You can change your plate number only if you’re converting your private vehicle to one for hire.

In short, your plate number is for keeps. It doesn’t expire. Yes, buti pa sa plaka, may forever.

4. Beware of Fixers

Never deal with fixers, no matter how badly you want to get your new license plate ASAP. Unscrupulous people may take advantage of the frustration of car owners, claiming they can help get vehicle plates faster for a fee.

The LTO has reminded the public not to enlist the services of these unauthorized people. Paying for a fixer’s assistance in getting a driver’s license, claiming your license plate, and other LTO transactions will only help spread corruption in the government.

Final Thoughts

Motorists can only hope and pray that the LTO plate availability will be resolved soon for the safety and security of vehicle owners and of those who travel the roads regularly. If you’re planning a new vehicle purchase,  consider LTO’s current backlogs and the health crisis. It’s best to manage your expectations early on and discuss the timelines for registration with your dealer. Keeping yourself informed and updated will ease out the hassles of securing your new vehicle plates. 

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