An authorization letter with photocopied IDs of the claimant and the registered owner (for representatives claiming plates on behalf of the registered owner)
Notarized deed of sale (for vehicles that have been sold, but don’t have an updated Certificate of Registration)
'Republika na Walang Plaka'
The LTO’s decades-long debacle with procuring and issuing replacement license plates is well-documented.
From allegedly anomalous suppliers to notices of disallowance, the saga involving these black-and-white pieces of metal reached such epic proportions, highlighting how our government’s perennial inefficiency created the “Republika na Walang Plaka” [Republic With No License Plates].
And things got even more heated when the LTO said on July 2023 that it would issue a memorandum penalizing vehicle owners who didn’t claim their replacement plates within 60 days.
“Ang tagal nila tayong pinahintay para sa plaka, tapos may kapal ng mukha pa silang mag-penalty kapag hindi natin kinuha agad?” said my irate best friend one night following this frankly ludicrous pronouncement.
[Translation: They made us wait for so long for these plates, yet they are so thick-faced that they would impose penalties if we don’t get the plates immediately?]
The rest of my best friend’s hilarious but profanity-laced statement is not fit to publish on AutoFun Philippines, but I recall that it did include things along the lines of “hanging and quartering.”
Mercifully, the LTO issued a clarification soon after, saying that the planned penalty would actually be against its regional offices and car dealers. No one gets hanged and quartered, then.
In light of this communications misstep, however, many people trooped down to their LTO offices to claim their plates. Among them was me – and here’s the rather easy process to procure your replacement plates.
Check if it’s available
In a surprisingly sensible move, the LTO has set up a website where you can simply type in your license plate number and check where to get your plates.
The LTO License Plate Replacement Inquiry portal indicates which LTO office you must go to. The assigned office is normally where your car’s mother file is located.
As per the portal, I had to head to the Manila South District Office in Intramuros. I made sure to get a screenshot from the portal in case there were questions about my visit.
Prepare the documents
The LTO portal requires you to have your old license plates on hand (but you’ll see later why this doesn’t seem to be an essential requirement).
This was easy enough – I removed the plates from my BMW and used another car to head to the LTO office.
In addition, you must have a copy of your car’s Original Receipt (OR) and Certificate of Registration (CR). The LTO does not mandate that your registration is updated for the year, as is the case with my BMW.
And if you’re getting the plates on behalf of the registered owner, be sure to have a signed authorization letter with copies of your I.D. and the registered owner’s I.D.
But my BMW has an added challenge – the registration is currently not under my name. In that case, make sure to bring the car’s notarized deed of sale.
Go to the LTO office
Monday afternoon, pouring rain, the City of Manila.
The hour-long drive from my house in Quezon City to the outskirts of the historic “Walled City” of Intramuros wasn’t particularly hectic.
Built in the late 16th century while the Philippines was under Spanish colonial rule, Intramuros and its iconic walls protected the imperialists from foreign invaders.
Besides being the home of numerous universities until today (including the original campuses of the University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo de Manila University, which were both attended by Philippine national hero Jose Rizal), Intramuros was also the home of the Spanish Empire’s designated representative, the governor-general.
The city was almost entirely obliterated in the Battle of Manila in 1945. The Philippines’ two former colonial rulers, Japan and the United States of America, faced off in the latter’s campaign to crush the former’s desire to dominate the whole of Southeast Asia.
With just two minutes left in my trip, I crossed MacArthur Bridge and a towering vestige of our country’s colonial past came into view – the Manila Central Post Office building, which had been razed by a huge fire some months ago.
Head to the releasing section
The LTO Manila South District Office is apparently located in a government complex right beside the historic Post Office.
I was directed to the releasing section and handed over my documents. It took all of 15 minutes to accomplish – I just needed to sign my name and contact number, with the LTO releasing officer taking a photo of me with my shiny new plates, albeit without any screws or bolts.
However, even though the LTO portal instructed me to hand in my old plates, the releasing section refused to accept these. And even in other LTO offices that I visited to claim replacement plates for my other cars, they wouldn’t take the old ones back, either.
Given that the LTO has not yet officially phased out the older green-and-white license plates, it is extremely dangerous to just throw these old plates out without destroying them first.
You might suddenly find your car involved in a crime or an anomalous transaction, except that the vehicle in question used your old plates.
A procedural hiccup here, I think.
Return to former glory
With my plates (old and new) on hand, I drove out to the road that faced the frontage of the Post Office Building.
The news images of the monumental conflagration on May 2023 rushed through my mind again. The towering, cream-colored structure remained upright, but the dark soot from the huge flames was a painful contrast.
The original Manila Central Post Office Building was completed in 1928, when the Philippines was under American colonial rule. The U.S. had bought the Philippines from Spain and took over in 1898 following the Treaty of Paris.
Designed by Ralph Doane, Juan Arellano and Tomas Mapua (the last being the founder and first president of Mapua University), the Post Office Building was also destroyed in the Battle of Manila when it was used as a fortress by Japanese troops.
It was rebuilt in 1946 and served as the headquarters of the government-run Philippine Postal Corporation until the massive fire over 75 years later.
Fire officials determined that a self-discharging car battery stored alongside office supplies, paint and thinners accidentally gutted this majestic structure, causing some ₱300 million in damage.
Although the government has pledged to restore the iconic landmark, it will certainly take years of work.
Hopefully, it won’t take as long as the LTO did to issue replacement license plates.
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An award-winning multimedia journalist, editor, and host for online and TV who has written in-depth stories on road safety and the Philippine elections. Outside of the media, VJ is an accomplished motorsports champion, English teacher, and dancer.