One of the most common problems of vehicle owners in the Philippines is acquiring their plate number from the Land Transportation Office (LTO). An LTO plate number serves as proof of legitimacy and as a vehicle’s identifier in terms of registration, road violations, and compliance with government laws.
Although many owners of newly registered cars are able to secure their plates within a month after registration, a vast majority of motorists are still waiting for their LTO plate number release. With more cars hitting the road every year, LTO seems to be having a hard time catching up, causing further delays in the issuance of license plates.
This has of course incensed many vehicle owners who otherwise patiently wait for their plates for months, if not years. Given LTO’s ‘no registration, no travel’ policy, it’s understandable why vehicle owners are demanding faster results. Under the aforementioned policy, vehicles without license plates can be flagged down anytime and will be asked to present a Certificate of Registration (CR) and Official Receipt (OR). Hefty fines will also be imposed on transgressors.
Curious to know when new plate numbers will be released in the Philippines this 2022? Get all the updates you need below.
Table of Contents
- Why Do You Need an LTO Plate Number?
- The LTO Plate Number Delay Timeline
- LTO’s Efforts to Reduce License Plate Release Backlogs
- LTO License Plate Rules and Updates Every Motorist Should Know
- Additional LTO License Plate Reminders
- Final Thoughts
Why Do You Need an LTO Plate Number?
If you’re wondering why there’s so much clamor to speed up the LTO new plate number release, it’s essentially for safety and security reasons—that is, besides the fundamental purpose mentioned above about license plates being necessary to move vehicles around. Moreover, together with your car or motorcycle’s Official Receipt and Certificate of Registration, your LTO plate number serves as your vehicle’s identity.
A license plate is akin to a government-owned legal document that comes in the form of a slim piece of metal that you place onto your car’s front and rear bumpers. It signals to law enforcers and other motorists that your vehicle has been duly registered and has therefore earned the right to traverse public roads. Plates also help authorities monitor the activity of every vehicle on the road to see if everyone is adhering to traffic rules and regulations.
In 2021, then-senator Richard Gordon criticized LTO and called for the sacking of its officials for their failure to implement the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act of 2019—a failure that can be attributed to another issue: LTO’s growing 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 to 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.
The LTO Plate Number Delay Timeline
2013 – Together with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), LTO awarded a 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 (COA) issued a Notice of Disallowance covering the advance payment made by LTO to suppliers in June and July 2014 amounting to ₱477 million. According to 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 (TRO) preventing LTO and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) from releasing and distributing 700,000 license plates 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 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 ₱477,901,329.
In the same year, LTO inaugurated its motor vehicle plate production plant to highlight its 106th founding anniversary. The facility can print up to 22,400 pieces of motor vehicle plates per day.
2021 – LTO sought 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. It hopes to achieve this through a modernization effort that uses automated plate-making machines that can fast-track license plate distribution. LTO Chief Edgar Galvante claims that the agency is right on schedule as far as its target plate production is concerned. A total of six million out of the 18 million plates in the backlog have so far been produced.
As of April 2022, the second plate-making robot dedicated to producing motorcycle plates has been activated. It has the capacity to manufacture 450 plates per hour or roughly 158,400 plates a month. LTO is asking for additional funding to be able to finally clear the backlog and provide plates for all registered vehicles by June of this year.
LTO’s Efforts to Reduce License Plate Release Backlogs
In 2020, LTO-13 Caraga released over 35,000 motorcycle plates that are bigger and that 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 out of its 1,386,895 backlog.
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 be claimed.
Other LTO offices that gradually reduced their LTO plate backlog include LTO-CAR, with 8,000 safety-compliant plates, and LTO-9 Zamboanga Peninsula, which released around 600,000 motorcycle plate backlog earlier in 2021.
2022 LTO Plate Backlog Management Efforts
In April of 2022, LTO released a database of new replacement license plates ready for claiming. However, it appears that the update only applies to vehicles with license plates ending from 1 to 5.
If your vehicle falls within this scope, go to LTO’s online database for your LTO plate number verification. Use a laptop or desktop computer to easily find your plate number. Just hold down the CTRL + F keys and type in your plate number with no spaces in between the letters and numbers. You can also use the chat feature on the website to ask for assistance.
If you see the plate number in the database, you can get in touch with LTO by visiting any branch to get further instructions on how to claim your plate. You can find online a list of LTO branches in Metro Manila. You can also go to your respective district or extension office to check if your license plate is ready for claiming.
If you aren’t covered under this newest update, you’ll have to wait again for further announcements. As consolation, it might help to know that LTO has at least extended the registration validity of vehicles with plate numbers ending in 4 and 5.
The new deadlines for registration are May 31 and June 30, respectively, giving you more time to use your vehicle without being penalized and take care of your registration if you haven’t yet. Refresh your memory of the process by reading a guide to LTO car registration and renewal. It might also help to check beforehand the different LTO fees for car registration, driver’s license, and violations.
Of course, this deadline extension is only a band-aid solution, and LTO still needs to address the core issue of plate number backlogs.
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
- One way on how to check LTO plate availability is to text LTOVEHICLE<space>plate number of your car and send it to 2600. Just wait a few minutes to receive an auto-generated reply outlining basic details about your vehicle, including its make, model, manufacturing year, color, last registration date, and LTO violations, if any.
- To make an LTO plate number inquiry, you can also head to the Motor Vehicle 7-Character Plate Backlog Inquiry page of the LTO website and enter your Motor Vehicle (MV) file number, which you can find on the top-left corner of your Certificate of Registration.
- Another way on how to check plate number availability is to coordinate directly with the car dealer where you bought your car and see if they have your plate number. They might be able to update you regarding the status of your MV plate.
- You may also contact the LTO regional offices where your vehicle registration was submitted. Check the official Facebook pages of LTO regional offices for more information.
- Another option is to call the LTO Plate Unit hotline 02 8922-9063 local 225.
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
- File an affidavit of loss or mutilation at the LTO office where your car is currently registered.
- Submit your OR/CR, PNP-Highway Patrol Group clearance, and other LTO requirements.
- Have LTO inspect your car and issue an accomplished and approved Motor Vehicle Inspection Report (MVIR).
- Pay the replacement plate cost at the cashier and get your proof of payment.
- 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
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
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:
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.
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
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: ₱20,000 up to ₱50,000
- Driving without a number plate or readable number plate: ₱50,000 up to ₱100,000
- Erasing, tampering, forging, covering of number plates: ₱50,000 up to ₱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
With the delayed license plate release, getting a vanity plate is totally impractical. There are pros and cons to customizing your plate number, but one may argue that the cons currently outweigh the pros. Besides, LTO has temporarily suspended applications for Optional Motor Vehicle Special Plates since December 15, 2017.
On a side note, remember that you’re also not allowed to add stylistic touches to your plate. Just leave it as it is, with no additional marks. If you’re really itching to personalize something, make changes to the rest of your vehicle. The license plate is off limits.
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 LTO plate number registration as soon as possible. Also, bring your Official Receipt or Certificate of Registration (OR/CR) each time you drive.
3. Your License Plate Number 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. Unscrupulous people may take advantage of the frustration of car owners, claiming they can help get vehicle plates faster for a fee.
LTO has reminded the public not to enlist the services of these unauthorized people. Paying a fixer to assist you in getting a driver’s license, claiming your license plate, and doing other LTO transactions will only help spread corruption in the government.
If you’re really adamant about getting your LTO documents as quickly as possible, look for ways on how to get a driver’s license faster without dealing with fixers.
The license plate backlog problem in the Philippines can be traced back to 2014, when LTO introduced the Plate Standardization Program. The initiative was projected to reach completion by 2017. It’s now five years later in 2022, and the license plate backlog is still as overwhelming as before. One wonders whether LTO can really catch up this year and finally match the growing demand for faster plate production and distribution.
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 to purchase a new vehicle, consider LTO’s current backlogs and the global health crisis that still plagues us. 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.
-  LTO explains why car plates are delayed (Philstar, 2017)
-  LTO inaugurates new plate making plant (LTO, 2018)
-  LTO starts distribution of new, enhanced motorcycle plates (Manila Bulletin, 2020)
-  LTO online database of ready-for-release replacement plates (LTO, 2022)
-  Memorandum: Extended Validity of Registration for Vehicles with Plate Number Ending in 4 (LTO, 2022)
-  Memorandum: Extended Validity of Registration for Vehicles with Plate Number Ending in 5 (LTO, 2022)
-  Memorandum: Temporary Suspension on the Acceptance of Applications and Payments for Special Plate (LTO, 2018)
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