MMDA eyes 3-digit coding scheme during Christmas season

Khristine Montenegro

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MMDA eyes 3-digit coding scheme during Christmas season
The proposed scheme is expected to be finalized in a meeting between MMDA and other i-ACT agencies on Thursday, November 24

MANILA, Philippines – Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Tim Orbos on Wednesday, November 23, said he favors the 3-digit coding scheme being proposed for December.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez initially suggested adding one more number per day to the coding scheme as Metro Manila expects even worse traffic during the Christmas season.

Suarez said that as of the end of October, 23,000 new vehicles had already been purchased – 65% of these in the National Capital Region.

“We need to have that supreme sacrifice of adding one more number to the coding. Dalawang araw sa isang linggo (Two days in a week), you are practically removing 30% of vehicles in our major roads. With the no window hours policy, we already reduced to 20%.”

Orbos said the “no window hours” policy has been effective, with travel time reduced by 10 to 15 minutes.

Banned twice a week?

The current 2-digit coding scheme bans vehicles based on the last digit of their license plates from Mondays to Fridays, from 7 am to 8 pm. For example, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are banned every Monday.

If the 3-digit scheme is approved, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 3 will also be banned on Mondays; those ending with 4, 5 and 6 will be banned on Tuesdays, and so on.

Police Superintendent Norberto Babagay of the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group pointed out, however, that if this is followed, plate numbers ending in 0 to 5 will be banned twice in a week under the proposed scheme.

“Kung isang araw, 1, 2, at 3, may maluluging numero at the end,” said Babagay, claiming it is unfair for some motorists. (If for one day, plates ending with 1, 2, and 3 are banned, some car owners will be put at a disadvantage in the end.) 

He instead suggested that the 2-digit coding scheme be maintained but with an additional digit banned along EDSA alone.

“On Mondays, 1 and 2 will still be banned in all roads. 3 will also be banned but just along EDSA. They can still pass through secondary roads for as long as they don’t pass EDSA,” said Babagay.

Orbos made sure to bring up Suarez’s proposal and Babagay’s suggestion in a meeting between the MMDA and other concerned agencies under the Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (i-ACT) on Thursday, November 24.

As of July 2016, the MMDA reported that about 7,500 vehicles pass along EDSA every hour per direction. EDSA has a capacity of only 200,000 vehicles per day.

Consequences and sacrifices

Orbos is also eyeing an increase in penalty charges for coding violators from P500, which he claims to be the same as 20 years ago, to P1,000.

“Kapag may mas masakit na parusa, baka maging mas effective,” he said. (If there’s a heavier punishment, it might be more effective.)

When asked how the proposed coding scheme would affect the public, Orbos said they are willing to listen to stakeholders to assess and reach a collective decision.

“Talagang ginagawa namin lahat. Humihingi lang kami ng paunawa na gumawa ng konting sakripisyo.” (We are really doing everything we can. We only ask for everyone’s understanding in making some sacrifices.)

Orbos added that if the new scheme is approved, they will do a dry run before the targeted full implementation by the first week of December.

In October, the i-ACT had already implemented a “no window hours” policy for private vehicles which has been set until January 31, 2017. A moratorium on all utility works and road diggings will also be implemented from December 1, 2016 to January 9, 2017.

Mall owners and operators were also urged not to hold holiday sales during the weekdays.

Meanwhile, Congress has had a series of hearings on granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the traffic crisis in Metro Manila.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on public services, previously said that the bill may likely be approved in the Senate by December. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Wednesday, however, that congressmen are unlikely to approve the measure before they go on Christmas break. –

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