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Biz Buzz: Driver’s license woes

business / Columnists
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Biz Buzz: Driver’s license woes

/ 12:59 AM April 20, 2015

IF YOU think that the shortage of plate numbers is the only problem plaguing the Land Transportation Office (LTO), think again.

Apparently, it’s not only the registration process for vehicles that has been hit by a supply chain problem, but also the registration process of drivers itself. More specifically, we’re talking about the driver’s license renewal process which—by many accounts—has been hitting snags, especially in the National Capital Region.

According to a source, most LTO branches have now run out of blank driver’s license ID cards. As such, people renewing their licenses find at the end of the registration process that all they get is a flimsy piece of paper that doubles as a provisional license (until the actual plastic ID card can be issued, for which they would have to return to the LTO branch at some future date).

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We’re told that the problem has become so bad that it sometimes takes up to three months (if you’re lucky) to claim the actual driver’s license ID card.

Biz Buzz learned that, a few weeks ago, a relative of President Aquino dutifully went to an LTO branch on his birthday to have his license renewed. At the end of the process (which was relatively efficient… until the ID issuing part), he was told to return in three months for the ID.

But here’s the thing, this presidential relative was scheduled to head overseas in a few days. He told the LTO officials at the branch that he needed an actual Philippine driver’s license to be able to rent and drive a car abroad (a requirement of car rental companies in the United States and Europe). Sorry, the officials replied. They were all out of blank ID cards.

The understandably upset presidential relative supposedly notified no less than President Aquino about his experience, to which the President promptly responded by calling up—and some said “scolding”—Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

According to our source, the root of the problem lies with the DOTC’s decision to cancel the contract for the supply of blank ID cards held by Amalgamated Motors Philippines Inc. (Ampi)—an Iglesia ni Kristo-linked firm which has been involved in the business since the Marcos years.

“To be fair to Ampi, they were still supplying LTO with these ID cards even when they were being given a difficult time,” said our source. “But once the payments for the supplies stopped, what could they do?”

And how much does the government owe Ampi in back payments for the driver’s license IDs it had delivered? Something like P700 million, we hear. Wow.

To this day, it remains unclear when—or if—Ampi will get paid for the services it has rendered.

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Going back to the issue of the presidential relative, the hierarchy of the DOTC was supposedly jolted into action by the presidential scolding that they published posthaste in the major newspapers an invitation to bid for the supply of these blank ID cards.

The response from prospective bidders was encouraging, with several local and foreign firms expressing interest immediately. The problem, of course, was that in the days preceding that announcement, the DOTC had yet to formulate or issue the terms of reference for the bidding (a rather basic requirement that they must have overlooked in their haste to assuage an upset President).

It remains to be seen if anything will come out of this entire process. In the meantime, people will have to be content with pieces of paper as provisional driver’s licenses. For how long? Who knows? Daxim L. Lucas

Trumpeting PPP’s ‘success’

PUBLIC Private Partnership Center executive director Cosette Canilao was recently on the road again, not necessarily to lure interest for the country’s expanding PPP project pipeline, but this time, to share insights of her own on how the program in the Philippines has evolved.

This latest trip was to Singapore, at the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, named after modern Singapore’s beloved founding father, who passed away late March at the age of 91.

Canilao was invited to deliver the keynote speech for a PPP workshop organized by the school together with the Insead Business School’s Singapore campus. Her talk highlighted early challenges, given regulatory and policy constraints, to create a more open and transparent bidding process.

“It was not an easy feat. One might say it was a bumpy and slow start, but through the support of no less than the President himself, we have been able to accomplish more than what we expected,” Canilao told participants, mostly members of the academe and PPP experts.

So far, the Philippines has awarded nine projects worth about $3 billion. And while this was still a fraction of a pipeline that has swelled to 60 projects worth more than $27 billion, Canilao noted it was nevertheless an indication of “increasing investors’ confidence in the transparent process and the level playing field.”

As noted, this was not an investment road show but the PPP Center did not come home empty handed.

Canilao told Biz Buzz that new policies on improving the government’s capabilities in terms of implementation would likely be adopted. That should help strengthen the PPP program’s foundation, even with inevitable political transitions. Miguel R. Camus

Power play

THE LOCAL stock market has enjoyed a long bull run, thanks in part to the Philippine Stock Exchange’s (PSE) commitment to good corporate governance and transparency.

Some investors are now taking a hard look at the local bourse to see if it has indeed shed its “old boy’s club” persona which, in the past, had allowed its most established members to bend some rules when needed.

Biz Buzz learned that recently, an investor reported to the PSE a serious issue concerning a major project of a listed property company.

We’re told that this issue potentially involves what could be a violation of this listed firm of the constitutional prohibition on the ownership of land in the Philippines by foreigners. How? Apparently, this property firm entered into a joint-venture agreement with a foreign partner.

In any case, under the bourse’s rules, third-party disclosures should be referred to the company for comment, and fully disclosed, unless the company refutes the same.

We’re told that when the PSE called an official of the company to inform him about this matter, they were told to await further instructions.

Now, it seems that this listed company is not inclined to cooperate with the bourse regarding this issue.

Considering the financial clout and influence of the property developer, perhaps it is not surprising that they are exhibiting this kind of behavior. The question now is: How will the PSE respond? Daxim L. Lucas

E-mail us at bizbuzz@inquirer.com.ph. Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

 

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