Metro Manila · Laws, Rules & Regulations

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In addition to a common code of behaviour (do not hurt or insult people et cetera), the Megacity Manila features some rules and laws which might not be familiar to everyone. While a list of all social and cultural behaviours would definitely fill some pages (and it makes more fun to figure it out by yourself), features the most important rules and laws which, when followed, prevent you from getting in trouble.

Most of those laws are called 'ordinances' which means that they might differ from city to city and from HotSpot to HotSpot. In order to be timeless, we present them to you as overall ordinances, as following them is not a bad idea anyway - and they are all enforced in one or the other HotSpot anyway. The strictest in this regard is Makati (Salcedo, Jupiter and Legazpi HotSpot as well as the International & Alternative Makati HotDot).

Rules of Thumb

  1. It is prohibited do drive when you are drunk.
  2. Smoking is only allowed in designated 'smoking areas'. If in doubt where the smoking area is or if smoking is prohibited in the HotSpot you are in, ask the staff present.
  3. Drinking alcoholic beverages in public is prohibited.
  4. If you enter a church, you have to cover your shoulders and you should wear appropriate clothes.
  5. The Philippines in general and Manila in particular are very liberal on freedom of speech.


Carrying around a valid ID or a photocopy of your passport is essential, as a police officer can ask you to produce it at any time. Having a copy of your passport handy will save you lots of time and trouble by avoiding a visit to the police station.

Sexual Behaviour

Although prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, it has an open approach when it comes to night clubs and entertainment bars with “hostesses”. Underage sex (legal age is 18) is a serious offence.


Driving whilst in the Philippines is possible if you have a driving license indicated by the Philippine authorities as legal or appropriate for driving in the country. Most foreigners have up to 90 days to secure a domestic driver’s license - until then they can use the diver's license of their home country. For more traffic rules, check our main article on driving.


The Philippines enforces a zero tolerance policy against all kinds of narcotics. The possession of small amounts of drugs, including marijuana, can lead to imprisonment of up to 12 years. Possession of more than 10 grams of drugs can be punished with life imprisonment. Foreigners being caught with illegal drugs will be put to jail as well, and the prisons in this country are nasty.

In Case of Violation

As a Megacitizen, there are three main reactions if you, perhaps by accident, still violate one of these laws and rules. Either you are not told at all (most of the time), or you are pleasantly told that what you are doing is wrong and asked to stop doing it (happens also a lot) or you are directly fined because you look like money (does not happen very often, especially if you are nice to those people telling you what is wrong).

In case you are fined for something you obviously did wrong, always ask for the printed and signed fine to be produced. Corruption is still prevailing, and sometimes you are 'charged with something' which it not even prohibited. Discuss what was wrong, ask for a formal charge. This might sometimes also get you around a fine. We discourage everyone from joining the vicious circle of corruption as it might get you in even more trouble.

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New to the Philippines? You may have already read a number of articles about the tropical paradise but there is a possibility that you haven’t heard of some of the country’s strangest laws.

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Dealing with the heavy traffic is a major challenge for Megacitizens in Manila. The metropolitan authorities try to reduce traffic through a number coding scheme. Effects of the coding scheme are cancelled out though because of the growing number of car owners in the metro. Here is what you should know about the traffic situation in the National Capital Region, why it is so bad and what else the authorities are doing about it.

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If you are going to make Manila your home for a couple of years or so, you should consider getting your own car. Here is all you need to know: special traffic rules, where to buy or rent a car, and how to find a good driver.

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In 2013 Makati City implemented a plastic ban, prohibiting the use of plastic, Styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials as packaging for food and other products. Most other cities in Metro Manila enforce similar laws or are about to do so.

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Some bars are easily to spot as 'Girlie Bars', in others you accidentally end up while actually looking for something else. Either way, here is a word of advise.

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Some notaries public of Metro Manila do not work in fancy offices but under the open sky. That might seem odd to foreigners, but it does have its advantages.

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Sometimes it seems that in Manila pirated DVDs are more widely available than the original ones. While you might not be persecuted even though you buy them openly on the streets - bringing them out of the country might get you in serious trouble.

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The Supreme Court of the Philippines declared the Reproductive Health Law constitutional in April 2014, putting an end to the debate regarding birth control, sex education, and maternal care. By 2016, during his first State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned that the RH Law will be in full force.

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In a statement on its website, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) advised foreign tourist visa holders not to take part in protests and mass actions such as the pork barrel rallies.