THE Land Transportation Office (LTO) has gained headway in addressing the nationwide backlog in license plates with the purchase of new production machines.

In a phone interview, LTO Law Enforcement Services Director Francis Rey Almora said that around three million license plates are set to be produced with the delivery of the new machines on February 26.

"All in all, what we are looking at is around three million plates which we are solving with the acquisition of these new machines. We are considering a three-hour, two-shift operation," Almora said.

LTO's license plate backlog from January 2015 to December 2017 was at 8.2 million, but with the acquisition of the new machines, it is expected to produce 3.4 million plates pending since July 2016.

The five Manual Embossing Machines could produce up to 200 license plates or 100 pairs of front and rear plates per hour, while machine suppliers, Trojan Computer Forms Manufacturing Corporation and J.H. Tonnjes E.A.S.T. GmbH & Co. KG Joint Venture lent two more manual machines. An Automated Embossing Machine will be delivered in July.

"These will really increase the production, and before year-end, there will be a new automated one which will cater to the MC (motorcycle) plates," Almora added.

The new vehicle plates are expected to be distributed to various regions beginning last week of April. The plates have new safety features composed of a QR code and RFID.

Meanwhile, there are 4.8 million license plates for vehicles purchased from January 2015 to June 2016 under a P3.8-billion contract, which is still subject to a Notice of Disallowance by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The order was due to alleged favoritism by the Transportation department to the supplier, Dutch firm J. Knieriem BV-Goes, despite its lack of financial capability.

The audit commission vowed to speed up the lifting of the Notice of Disallowance after the Supreme Court order by expediting the process at COA after it would have received the decision and order of the Supreme Court expected to be released anytime soon.

In January, the Supreme Court lifted the stay order on the release of more than 700,000 modernized license plates equipped with safety features.

These plates were confiscated by the Bureau of Customs after the manufacturer failed to pay taxes.

The Bureau of Customs donated the plates to the LTO and petitioners questioned the legality of the donation under the LTO-Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program.