History of vehicle registration plates of the Philippines

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Philippine vehicle registration plates have a long history. The earliest license plates were introduced around 1912 with the introduction of Legislative Act No. 2159.

In this article, "L" stands for a letter in 1974–1980 and 1981 series plates, "X" stands for an alphanumeric symbol (in 1974–1980 license plates), "P" stands for a prefix (in 1933–1980 license plates), and "D" stands for a number (in all license plates).

Specifications[edit]

Early license plates[edit]

Most early license plates just showed the serial number, most likely a 4 to 5-digit number and a small box on the left of the serial number which displays the 2-digit year mark, which is written downwards. This continued until 1932.

e.g. 31 44789, 31 stands for the year 1931

1933 series[edit]

With the Revised Motor Vehicle Law (Act No. 3992) introduced in 1933, second-generation Philippine license plates were introduced; they can be in the format of "A-B" or "P-B", where A is an area code number (used until 1960), P is a vehicle classification prefix, and B is a 3 to 6-digit number. Sometimes single-letter suffixes were used.

Hyphens were used in separating the numbers; this was later replaced by asterisks in 1938. On the bottom of the license plate are the 2-digit year mark, the place the car is registered, and the word "P.I.", in that order (e.g. "36 MANILA P.I.", 36 stands for 1936). In 1938 the "P.I." was dropped, the place name and the year mark were simply displayed (e.g. MANILA 60, 60 stands for 1960). Prefixes were common in license plates starting in 1938. Sometimes prefixes stand for place names (e.g. "PS" stands for Pasay City).

  • 1934 – white symbols on green background
    • For government vehicles, the plate has a shield outline with the 2-digit year mark (sometimes written downward) inside it, then the word "P.I." below, then a 2 or 3-digit number on the right of the shield outline, and then the word "PHILIPPINES" on the bottom of the license plate.
  • 1935 – yellow symbols on a black background with the original (1933) numbering format
  • 1936 – red symbols on a white background with original numbering format
  • 1937 – white symbols on dark blue background
  • 1938 – green symbols on a white background with a revised numbering format and bottom text.
    • Instead of "(year) (place) P.I.", the bottom text is displayed as "(place) (year)", sometimes with an asterisk or hyphen dividing the words. Prefixes on license plates came into use.
  • 1939 – black symbols on white background with second numbering format
  • 1940 – red symbols on a yellow background with the second numbering format
  • 1941 – yellow symbols on blue background with the second numbering format
  • 1942 – white symbols on a black background
    • Manila license plates omit the "1" prefix from this point on.
  • 1944 – white on red
  • 1945 – yellow on green
  • 1946 – dark blue symbols on a yellow-orange background
    • On some license plates, there were two-year markers (e.g. 46*PHILIPPINES*46).
  • 1947 – same format as 1936 license plates (red on white) but with 2nd (1938) numbering format
  • 1948 – black symbols on pink background
  • 1949 – white on red
  • 1950 – white symbols on a green background
    • Typeface was slightly changed and a new numbering format was used. On license plates with two numbers, the left number is smaller than the right number.
    • Motorcycle plates now have the prefix of "MC".
  • 1951 – yellow symbols on a dark brown background
  • 1952 – white symbols on a dark blue background
  • 1953 – white symbols on red background
  • 1954 – white symbols on green background (similar to 1950 license plates)
  • 1955 – same format as 1942 license plates (white on black) but with the 3rd (1950) numbering format
    • Diplomatic plates for that year were black on white.
  • 1956 – same format as 1953 license plates (white on red)
    • Starting that year, the font on the bottom of the license plates has been slightly modified.
  • 1957 – same format as 1952 plates (white on dark blue)
  • 1958 – white symbols on maroon background
  • 1959 – white symbols on orange background
  • 1960 – white symbols on green background (same format as 1950 and 1954 plates)
  • 1961 – a new numbering format and color set has been used. Above the serial number is "RIZAL'S CENTENARY YEAR", and on the right of the plate is a decal depicting the Rizal Monument.
    • Standard format (B, E, H, J, L, MC, T, TR, etc.) – white symbols on red-orange background
    • Public transport (PUB, PUJ, TX)- white symbols on black background
    • Government use (RP series)- white symbols on black background
    • Rental vehicle (U) – white on maroon
  • 1962
    • Standard format – white symbols on maroon background
    • Public transport – white symbols on blue background
    • Government use – white symbols on orange background
    • Service vehicle (S) – white on turquoise
    • Unusual variant(s) – yellow symbols on red background
  • 1963
    • Standard format – white symbols on green background
    • Public transport – white symbols on red background
    • Government use – white on orange
    • Service vehicle – white on black
    • Rental vehicle – white on red
    • Unusual variant(s) – yellow symbols on gray background
  • 1964 – the text above the serial number reads "MABINI CENTENNIAL"
    • Standard format – white symbols on blue background
    • Public transport- white on black
    • Government use – white on black
    • Service vehicle – white on blue
    • Rental vehicle – white on black
    • Unusual variant(s) – yellow symbols on gray background
  • 1965 – the text above the serial number reads "CHRISTIANIZATION'S 4TH CENTENNIAL"
    • Standard format – white symbols on orange background
    • Government use – white on black
  • 1966
    • Standard format – blue symbols on white background
    • Public transport – black on yellow
    • Pickup truck (AC) – black on yellow
    • Diplomatic use (DC, CC, etc.) – white on blue
  • 1967
    • Instead of new color schemes for the years 1967–1969, date tabs (with a 2-digit year marker) were inserted on the lower-right corner of a 1966-subseries plate. The use of these tabs continued until 1969.

1970 series[edit]

In 1970, Philippine vehicle license plates adapted a numbering format similar to Japanese license plates. It can be in a format of "DD-DD", (from 0–0 to 99–99, sometimes 00 to 09 are used) with single or double-letter suffixes. Most vehicle category prefixes are on the lower-left of the plate. For government vehicles, "RP" is displayed before the number. Year stickers were introduced in 1973.

1974 series[edit]

A new license plate format was introduced for the year 1974. The format is "L DDD", "DDD L", "XX DDD" or "DDD XX", with the vehicle classification at the lower-left corner of the plate, followed by the place name (which was changed to "PILIPINAS" in 1977), and the 2-digit year marker. The initial typeface resembles the 1970 series plates.

  • 1977
    • The typeface and color schemes were changed.
  • 1980
    • The color schemes were changed again.

1981 series[edit]

In 1981, the vehicle registration plate system has been revised again, taking the format of LLL-DDD. Color-coded year stickers appear for the first time in 1982, based on the license plate's color scheme (notable exceptions are in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1993). Stickers for vehicle classification appeared in the same year. The byline at the bottom of the plate was displayed as "PILIPINAS".

  • 1988
    • The license plates are slightly redesigned.
      • Sometimes, an "F" between the "LLL-DDD" serial number indicates a front plate; an "R" indicates a rear plate.
      • Public transport plates are usually displayed as yellow symbols on a black background (front and rear plates).
      • For other license plates, the rear plates have the inverted colors of the front plates.
  • 1995
    • The license plates have slightly reverted to the 1981 format; most license plates have the byline displayed as "PHILIPPINES 2000".
  • 2000
    • Most license plates have the byline displayed as "Angat Pinoy 2004", "PILIPINAS", or "PERLAS NG SILANGAN".
  • 2003
    • The license plates were completely redesigned, with the background being a blue/white/green gradient with a picture of the Rizal Monument in the center.
    • A few license plates have the byline displayed as "MATATAG NA REPUBLIKA"; most have it displayed as "PILIPINAS" or "PERLAS NG SILANGAN".
    • Some public transport license plates have a blue/yellow/green gradient background with the Rizal Monument picture in the center (mostly with 2003 subseries letterings) or a golden yellow background with the lettering similar to 1987 subseries license plates.
  • 2005
    • 3-year validation stickers appear for the first time.
  • 2009
    • For NCR Plates, The letters, "I","O" & "Q", will display either in the middle or end.

2014 series[edit]

In January 2013, Land Transportation Office ventures the plate standardization project with safety features that will have bar codes, and 1981 series are now unavailable. LTO will issue new format for light motor vehicles LLL-DDDD and for motorcycles LL-DDDDD.[1]

An example design of a 2014 series vehicle registration plate; Plate for private and light vehicles (Top) and for Public Utility vehicles (Bottom).

Lists of prefixes[edit]

In 1938, prefixes were common on license plates. Prefixes can be combined (e.g. RPTR, which denotes a government-owned trailer). Most of the prefixes took the form of stickers starting in 1981.

Vehicle category prefixes[edit]

  • A – Agent
  • AC – auto calesa jeepney
  • B – "bantam" / kei car
  • CC – diplomatic vehicle (from "consular corps")
  • CD – diplomatic vehicle (from French "Corps Diplomatique")
  • CM – Chief of Mission's (ambassador's) vehicle
  • DC – diplomatic vehicle (from "diplomatic corps")
  • DD – diplomatic vehicle
  • DPL – diplomatic vehicle
  • E – tax-exempt vehicle
  • H – heavy car (with large engine displacement of 2801 cc and over)
  • J – jeep
  • L – light car (with small engine displacement of 1600 cc or less )
  • M – medium car (with medium engine displacement of 1601 – 2800 cc)
  • MC – motorcycle
  • MCH – motorcycle for hire
  • OEV – other exempt vehicle
  • PI – government use (from Philippine Islands)
  • PU – public transport (PUB stands for "public utility bus"; it should not be confused with the B prefix which stands for a bantam car)
  • RP – government vehicle(from Republika ng Pilipinas or Republic of the Philippines)
  • S – service van or bus
  • SPL – special designation
  • T – truck
  • TB – tour bus
  • TC (1942) – ????
  • TC – tricycle
  • TH – heavy truck
  • TX – taxicab
  • TR – trailer
  • TRJ – jeep trailer
  • TRLB – ???
  • U – U drive it (rental vehicle)
  • UV – utility vehicle (also includes sport-utility vehicles and vans)

Place prefixes[edit]

1933–1960[edit]

1981 series[edit]

I & O are not used to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 & 0, used only for private motorcycles.
Q is a special letter and is not used on regular plate circulation or used only for motorcycle-tricycle for hire.
But these Letters are now used as middle or last letters, or both for Manila Plates since 2009.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]