Yesterday, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that they plan to introduce what they call 'Modified Coding' once the National Capital Region (NCR) is placed under the more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Unlike a typical number coding scheme, the modified scheme means that motor vehicles that have at least "two passengers" are exempted from the modified UVVRP. By our understanding, the phrase "two passengers" does not equate to two occupants, which would mean that the driver is included in the count (i.e. 1 driver + 1 passenger = 2 occupants). What is clear is that if a vehicle has at least three occupants (i.e. 1 driver + 2 passengers) it will be exempted from coding so long as the vehicle doesn't exceed the new limits set by the government under the 'new normal' (2 persons per row of seating).

That means solo drivers will be apprehended on their vehicle's coding day, banning vehicles based on the last digit on the plate number or conduction sticker (1-2 on Monday, 3-4 on Tuesday, 5-6 on Wednesday, 7-8 on Thursday, and 9-0 on Friday). That ban initially appeared to include medical front liners/health workers... until now.

The MMDA has just clarified via the PNA that medical front liners and health workers are to be exempted from the modified number coding scheme altogether. According to MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia, they have decided to exempt front line health workers from the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) to help provide 'ease and convenience to their daily transport'.

“The MMDA understands the plight of the medical front-liners so we want to assist them during this challenging time,” said Garcia.

With public utility buses (PUBs) and jeepneys yet to be allowed to ply Metro Manila roads under GCQ rules, this will surely help health workers get to their destinations quicker should they have a vehicle of their own. The MMDA, however, reiterated that motorists can maximize the use of private vehicles by having more passengers aboard in each car so as long as they are following social distancing guidelines.

The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the modified number coding have yet to be revealed, however. But the MMDA assured the public that before the eventual lifting of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) on June 1, they will have the guidelines ready.

With the continued rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases, exempting health workers from number coding (as well as Modified Coding) will surely help them get to their destinations and assigned medical facilities quicker and with no hassle. Just remember to always be happy, be safe, and always wash your hands.