Last Tuesday, my American husband and I decided to drive to Robinson’s Mall to do some grocery shopping. We were almost there when we realized that our car was “coded” on that day. It was around 9:45am. We had to turn back as MMDAs abound in front of the mall. We were lucky that we didn’t get spotted on our way back. We parked at a corner drugstore parking space, and waited till 10am before driving back to Robinson’s.
How the “Coding” System in Metro Manila works
If you are not familiar with driving in Metro Manila, you might ask¸”What is she talking about?” If you decide to drive here, you should be aware of an ordinance commonly referred to as “color coding” or “number coding” or simply “coding.” It was meant improve the flow of traffic during rush hour by reducing the number of vehicles on the streets at that time.
This is how it works: On Mondays, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are banned from the streets between 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm. (In Makati City, the ban is for the entire day.) On Tuesdays, it would be plate numbers ending in 3 and 4 that are banned. On Wednesdays, 5 and 6. On Thursdays, 7 and 8. And on Fridays, 9 and 0. If you get caught, you will have to pay a fine.
The MMDA and Fines
The “catchers” are traffic enforcers of the Metro Manila Development Authority, or MMDAs, as we call them. MMDAs have an amazing ability to spot a “coded” vehicle, and if you get caught by one, he will take your driver’s license, and give you a ticket. To get your license back, you’ll have to present the ticket at city hall and pay a fine of around 400 pesos.
I’ve “heard” that some drivers, wanting to avoid the hassle of going to city hall to get back their licenses, discretely hand over anywhere from 200 to 300 pesos right there and then, without getting a ticket or receipt. They continue on to their destination, and take note of the name of the MMDA. If they get stopped again, they can just say that they’ve already been flagged by so and so officer, and are just on their way home.
I’m not going to tell whether we have been caught by an MMDA, or if we have, whether we paid the fine at city hall or handed over a bribe. All I can say is this: Always be wary of your car’s coding day. If forget and get caught, whichever way you’d like to settle the matter is all up to you. Do keep smaller bills in your wallet. MMDA’s don’t have change. And I doubt that you’ll find someone on the street who can give you change for 500 or 1000 pesos without running away with your money.