Whether you’re a road rookie or a highway pro, you’ve surely encountered the term ‘coding’. Used primarily by motorists, it is often uttered with a hint of disdain when the topic regarding mode of transportation on a regular working weekday comes up.

A quick history lesson

It is abridged from the phrase ‘number-coding’, which is an acceptable replacement to avoid having to refer to its extra-long scientific name, UVVRP (Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program).

First effected 22 years ago on public utility vehicles (PUVs), the original scheme was simple – ban PUVs from using EDSA based on the last digit of their plate number for the entire day.

A month later it was tweaked at the behest of public transport groups. Coverage was extended to the entire metropolis and to all private vehicles but only during the ‘rush hours’ of 7AM to 9AM and 5PM to 7PM.

Weeks later it was fine-tuned again by adding a new twist, the Odd-Even program. Still based on the last digit of the plate number – odd numbers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, even numbers on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – affected vehicles were prohibited from using metro roads during ‘rush hours’.

In 1996, due to the Guadalupe Bridge renovation, the original scheme was re-implemented along with the Odd-Even arrangement.

After improvements were complete, Odd-Even was dropped and for some fourteen years since 2003, generations of motorists have grown into the habit of following the ‘coding’ – a total ban on private and PUVs from 7AM to 7PM with ‘window hours’ for private vehicles between 10AM to 3PM.

But alas, after more than two decades of fighting vehicular congestion via road space rationing, it continues to get worse.

This prompted the new administration to create the Inter-Agency Council on Traffic or i-ACT composed of members from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), MMDA, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Land Transportation Office, Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group and the Metro Manila Council.

On November 2 last year, the government’s new muscle against traffic expanded ‘coding’ by removing the ‘window hours’ and extending coverage hours, among many others.

Now called the ‘Expanded UVVRP’, but you can also just stick with ‘number coding’ because regardless of the name, it’s the major changes to the rules and locations that you should never forget.

It’s still the same, 1-2 Monday, 3-4 Tuesday, 5-6 Wednesday, 7-8 Thursday and 9-0 Friday but vehicles are now barred from using roads in Metro Manila from 7AM to 8PM. No ‘window’ hours’ on major roads and these are:

Circumferential roads (C1 to C6)

  • C-1 C.M. Recto Avenue (Roxas Blvd to Legarda)
  • C-2 A.H. Lacson/Quirino Avenue (Roxas Blvd to R-10)
  • C-3 G. Araneta Avenue/Sgt. Rivera (N. Domingo to R-10)
  • C-4 EDSA (R-10 to Macapagal Blvd)
  • C-5 (Commonwealth Ave to South Super Highway)
  • C-6

Radial Roads (R1 to R10)

  • R-1 Roxas Boulevard (CM Recto to MIA Road)
  • R-2 Taft Avenue (Lawton to Redemptorist)
  • R-3 South Superhighway (Quirino to Nichols Interchange)
  • R-4 Shaw Boulevard (R. Magsaysay Blvd to Pasig Blvd)
  • R-5 Ortigas Avenue (Santolan to Imelda Avenue)
  • R-6 Aurora Boulevard/R Magsaysay Boulevard (R. Magsaysay/Legarda to C-5 Katipunan)
  • R-7 Espana/Quezon Avenue/Commonwealth Avenue
  • R-8 A. Bonifacio Avenue (Blumentritt to EDSA Balintawak)
  • R-9 Rizal Avenue (Carriedo to Monumento)
  • R-10 Northern Coastal (Recto to C-4)

Major highways

  • A. Mabini Street (Samson Road to C-3)
  • Alabang-Zapote Road (Alabang to Real Street/Quirino Avenue)
  • McArthur Highway (Monumento to Valenzuela/Meycauayan Boundary)
  • Marcos Highway (Katipunan Ave to Sumulong Highway)
  • East and West NLEX Service Road through Valenzuela

Good news is that secondary streets and minor lanes may allow you to drive your ‘coded’ vehicle depending on the city you’re in.

We all know Makati City doesn’t play along so don’t bother. Other cities without ‘window hours’ include Las Piñas and Mandaluyong.

Trucks that exceed 4500 kg gross weight and above are exempted from the UVVRP number coding scheme. However, these trucks become part of the 'Truck Ban' ordinance. This means that big rigs with heavy payloads will not be allowed to travel along major roadways from 6:00 AM – 10:00 AM and from 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM every day except Sundays and holidays.

Meanwhile, light trucks that weigh below 4500 kg gross weight are part of the 'expanded' number coding scheme. Like private and public utility vehicles, they are not allowed to travel along major thoroughfares from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM.

Pasig is a bit more lenient. You’ve got a window of 10AM to 4PM but not on C-5, Shaw Blvd. (from R. Magsaysay to Pasig Blvd.), Marcos Hi-Way (from Katipunan to Sumulong Hi-Way [Manila area]), and Ortigas Ave./Extension (from Santolan to Imelda Ave.). Also, do take note of their own Odd-Even scheme that’s strictly administered from 6AM to 10PM Monday to Saturday, no window hours. License plates ending in 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are not allowed to use Elisco Rd. (west-bound), R. Jabson St. (north-bound), Elisco Rd./M. Concepcion St./R. Jabson St. Intersection, San Guillermo St. (east-bound), Sandoval Ave. (both north and south-bound), and F. Legaspi Bridge (west-bound) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays while plates ending in 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 are forbidden to use the aforementioned areas on M-W-F.

Odd-even scheme in Pasig

Taguig enjoys coding-free weekday but stay away from roads/highways that are part of the list above passing its boundaries. The same goes for the cities of Marikina, Malabon and Muntinlupa.

Barangay Ayala Alabang, which is located in the city of Muntinlupa, announced that it is set to bring back ‘coding’ along the stretch of Commerce Avenue starting October 23, 2017. It will be enforced between 7AM to 9AM and 4PM to 7PM with window hours of 9AM to 4PM. Residents of villages in and around the area will be exempted along with employees of establishment in Alabang Town Center, Molito and Madrigal Business Park. School buses and delivery vehicles entering and exiting Ayala Alabang Village will also be allowed.

Paranaque also doesn’t have ‘coding but the city government started its own October 1, 2016. During the rush hours of 7AM to 9AM and 4PM to 7PM, based on the similar system used by the metropolis, vehicles of certain plate number endings are barred from using San Antonio Avenue, Pres. Aguinaldo Street, Dominique Savio Street, Japan Street, Michael Rua Street, France Street, Sucat Avenue, Quirino Avenue, Ninoy Aquino Avenue, Doña Soldedad Road, East Service Road and West Service Road.

Pasay follows the metro-wide implementation but is coding-free along Ninoy Aquino Avenue, MIA Road, Domestic Road, Airport Road, Sales Road and portions of Buendia.

UPDATED as of: August 22, 2018:

In a bid to decongest major roadways during rush hour, Valenzuela City will also be implementing the MMDA's expanded number coding scheme beginning September 3, 2018. It follows the same rule as in other cities; 1-2 Monday, 3-4 Tuesday, 5-6 Wednesday, 7-8 Thursday and 9-0 Friday. Vehicles are barred from using the following roads from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM:

-MacArthur Highway

-Mayasan – Paso De Blas – Bagbaguin Road

-Karuhatan – Gen. T. De Leon Road

-Gov. I. Santiago Road (Malinta to Tatawid)

-Mindanao Avenue (Barangay Ugong)

-East and West NLEX Service Roads

-T. Santiago Road

-Sapang Bakaw (Lawang Bato) – Punturin – Bignay Road

There will no window hours implemented in Valenzuela City.

You can apply for an exemption if you drive a school bus or operate a company shuttle service. Media practitioners and doctors may also be excluded, pending approval of course. Vehicles carrying persons with disabilities, perishable goods and accredited Department of Tourism vehicles may also be spared from ‘coding’.

Number Coding Decoded: A Beginner's Guide

Motorcycles are automatically exempted along with ambulances, fire trucks, police patrol cars, military vehicles, vehicles annexed by agents of the government for military relief or emergency purposes, vehicles carrying a person in need of emergency medical aid, diplomatic vehicles, government vehicles, MMDA accredited tow trucks, vehicles carrying relief goods to identified calamity and depressed areas.

With limited routes and very few free hours of the day for vehicles affected by ‘coding’, netizens have naturally reacted negatively to this new development.

The geographically-challenged are asking for blanket enforcement on all cities in Metro Manila to reduce the confusion, while some question the exemption of motorcycles.

It isn’t perfect but it will have to do for now.

Something has to be done because vehicular volume right now is simply too much. EDSA, for example, can only take 6,000 vehicles per direction at any given time. Currently, it is forced to take close to 8,000 which explains the crawl you’re in all day long.

That’s just one statistic and hopefully it’s enough to ease the pain and help you rationalize why you have to Uber or worse, take public transport during ‘coding’ days.

For the other four days you’re driving, refer to our guide to know the routes and the right times of the day so that you don’t get caught breaking the ‘code’.