[talk-ph] Philippine addressing system for OSM

Ronny Ager-Wick - Develo Ltd. raw at develo.ltd.uk
Thu Mar 19 11:42:24 GMT 2009

Maning and Rally, I am very happy that you mentioned this problem!

I have worked with addressing systems for years. Having made database
schemas and software for direct marketing companies, mail order
businesses and a world wide location search system, I have considerable
expertise in this area. I have also been annoyed with the complete mess
the Philippine addressing "system" is in, and have been wanting to do
something with it. This may be the kick I need to get going.
Addressing systems look so easy when you just glance over them, but when
you dig deeper into the matter, like Rally has done here, you discover
that it's immensely complex. If the database schema holding this
information is not designed well, it's going to be a complete mess
forever after.
I have analysed the situation in some other countries and found their

Norway (where I'm from): Postal codes are under the control of the
postal and telecommunications authority (which means government). This
is the first mistake. Anyone who has dealt with the government knows
that thay are utterly incapable of doing anything right. Result: small
towns have one post code, similar to the phils. Bigger (or randomly
selected small towns) have numerous postal codes which are assigned so
they fit the routes of the local post office! Completely useless to
anyone but themselves...
Norway is also complicated, but not as messy as the Philippines. The
most complex addresses can be like this one:
Leil 42, 2. etg, oppg. C
Storebakken 12
0123 OSLO
The least complex one can be like the one of my Grand parents before:
(that's it)
The reason for this is that it's a small village, they live by the main
road, which has no name (only a road number which never is used in an
address) and the one delivering mail there knows everybody anyway. This
is still a valid address.
The good thing about Norway is that the street name is unique within the
postal code - in fact within the municipality (which can have 1 or more
postal codes as explained above). This luxiru we don't have in the Phils.

Moving on the the UK, which has an excellent postal code system - in my
opinion even better than the US. Not perfect, but a good model.
Their "post codes" consists of four sections:
Postcode area
Postcode district
GU35 9NQ - GU = Guildford (the nearest big town), 35=district within the
Guildford area, 9 = Sector, NQ = Unit
W2 6DB - W = West London, 2 = district, 6 = sector, DB = unit
EC2R 8AY - EC = East Central London, 2R = district, etc.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_postcodes for full details.
The addresses in the UK are also structured in a way:
For example, my address is:
Flat 12
Cleveland House
55 Cleveland Square
W2 6DB
Address explained:
Flat 12 = flat number, apartment number, room number, etc (section of
building). Normally not included in address finder software.
Cleveland House - House name. in this case redundant information, as
house number is specified below. A UK address can have a house name OR
house number, or both.
55 Cleveland Square - House number + street name
London - town/city (London is special as there is no need for county)
W2 6DB - postcode
We used to rent a farm house earlier, the address was:
Sandybridge Farm, Main Road
Kinglsey, Bordon, Hampshire
GU35 9NQ
Address explained:
Sandybridge Farm, Main Road - house name + street name (basically the
same as house number + street name)
Kinglsey, Bordon, Hampshire - Area, Town, County
GU35 9NQ - postcode

I believe the US has s similar system to the UK, like Rally describes,
but their postcode system is based on numbers only, like 13745-1452
which is inherently difficult to remember. The UK system is much better
as it utilized letters as well as numbers. This makes the codes shorter
and easier to remember.

What I propose that we do - before any government body or commercial
company does it, is to create a near perfect postal code system for the
Philippines. This could be a separate project form OSM, but closely
linked - so that OSM will always be the best and most updated map with
all postal codes included. The reason why I want to do it this way is to
ensure that the address, post code and geo coding information remains
free for all, unlike most othr countries where only companies with a big
enough budget can legally get hold of the data.

Rally has gone into great detail already, which is immensely useful
information. With my experience of db design in this specific area, I
can solve a couple of the problems he is facing:
He says people uses different ways to describe the same address. This is
and will always be a problem. The address db should therefore be
centered around points, not the address itself. A point can be either a
single X-Y coordinate or an area. Each point can have more than one
address attached to it. We can mark one address as "primary" or
"official" so that looking up any of the other address will give you the
official address in the end.
So if "#245 Brgy Sta Cruz, Magalang, Pampanga" is the physical location
as "10 Rizal Rd, Puruk 1, Magalang, Pampanga" (it's not, I just made it
up), then so be it: add both address pointing to the same point.
Also, addresses change. This is a fact, and it's unavoidable, so the
system should be prepared for it. Having "valid_from" and "valid_to"
dates on addresses is a good start. This way, no historical data gets
lost. In year 2045, we can look back and see what the address was called
in 2009.
And don't worry about database space. You shouldn't need to feel sorry
for the computers, they're there to serve us, and disk space gets
cheaper every day (about half price every 18 months), so I wouldn't
worry too much about that.

I agree that the Lot/blk/phase thing is a stupid system that should be
abandoned immediately, however, failing that, having a system that
allows more than one address per physical location (point) goes a long
way. When someone actually comes up with a good name for the streets
within a sub division and numbering the houses within it, we can add
them right away while still supporting the legacy lot/blk/phase style.
If we assign postal codes with care - in other words if you have a
lot/blk/phase system, but you assign each postal code for one side of
the street in one block only, then you the lot number can act as house
number, as it will be unique.
Better yet, as the system will have a "primary" address, say you're a
courier like Rally and you're printing the list of places to go - the
system can look up the address (postal code + house number/name being
unique) and print the "real" or official address rather than the one
given. So someone writes:
Lot 12, blk 3, phase 2
Sometown, Someprovince
It's translated to
59, 5th Avenue
Diamond-etc subdivision
Sometown, Someprovince

I am prepared to design the database schema and direct the development
of a piece of software that can do all of this. I suggest that we create
an organization that holds the ownership of this software (which will
only be used on our web server anyway, and we don't want idiots copying
our server software to set up slightly modified alternative versions all
over the place) but release the data under an appropriate open license,
similar to OSM, available to everybody and easy to update, so it will be
kept up to date.
Exchange of data between OSM and this system would be obvious, leading
to all addresses - and postal codes - in the entire Philippines being
available on OSM - down to house number/name and their exact location.

Hopefully, the post office and all courier companies, mail order
companies, direct marketing companies, etc. will see the value of this
and adapt it as well.

Well, this was a lot of stuff in one go, but if anyone will raise their
hands to say they want to be part of this (and also add what they plan
to contribute with), then please let me know. I will then set up a task
management system where we can enter all our requirements and start
moving towards development of a system for it.


maning sambale wrote:
> Hi,
> I have been discussing with rally about adding addresses to osm.  We
> all know it's messy here in the Philippines but rally outlined an even
> more messy situation!
> I hope we can pool our minds together to come-up with a sensible
> addressing format for the Philippines.
> I've started a wikipage to collect some notes
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/WikiProject_Philippines/Philippine_addressing
> I suggest we adopt the Karlsruhe Schema and adopt all possible tags
> that fit the Philippines.
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Address
> here's the email from rally (background rally works in courier service
> so he knows this stuff very well):
> ==============
>> housenumber : number or alphanumeric (eg 12-C, 5-A), or
>> housename: for addresses on Avenues (eg. ortigas ave ext or
>> manila east
>> roads) that has no street number, but building names only
>> street: sometimes blank (for sitios with no streets; of for
>> subdivisions
>> with no streets - using Lot/Block/Phase)
>> state -- not applicable
>> for NCR:
>> postcode: zipcode
>> Note: In the US,  "zipcode" combined with
>> "house number" and "street name"
>> are enough info for a package to be delivered.
>> because their expanded zipcode makes the equivalent
>> barangay, sitio, town,
>> city, state becomes redundant info.
>> a specific expanded ZIP points to a small specific area in
>> the country. So,
>> once a messenger reached that zipcode area, all he has to
>> do is look for the
>> street and house number. sometimes it includes APT or SPC
>> (apartment  or
>> Space number). no need to specify condo or name of
>> townhouse (as they
>> consume extra space in the database).
>> The dream is for every filipino living in a specific area,
>> to know his/her
>> expanded zipcode. maybe, all he needs to do is dial his
>> landline on his
>> area, and the computer answers back with the correct
>> zipcode; or simply ask
>> the barangay tanod for their zipcode. then, there's no
>> need to memorize the
>> name of apartment, condo, building name, project
>> subdivision. that way, typo
>> error don't  matter as long as the zipcode is correct.
>> according to wiki,
>> Taytay Rizal is 41square Km. yet the zip code is one
>> 4-digit number for the
>> entire town. Now what's the use of this zipcode to a
>> messenger? no use.
>> my point is, after the tag "addr:street" we must
>> go to many other sub-levels
>> before going to city or town.
>> some barangays in the philppines are just too big for one
>> expanded zipcode,
>> so we further divide it into sitio or big village or big
>> subdivision...
>> wait, it's not that easy to teach and implement.
>> what complicates the address system is the inefficient use
>> of address fields
>> in paper forms: rural and city addresses need different
>> forms.
>> NCR have "districts" and barangays but don't
>> have provinces, and sitios and
>> puroks are not that many.
>> RURAL AREAS have provinces and barangays, but have lots of
>> sitios and
>> puroks, but practically no districts (except for
>> congressional districts
>> which is not used on Address system) - because
>> congressional district keeps
>> on changing very often.
>> since there are lots of "streetname duplication"
>> in a particular town, rural
>> addresses need to specify subdivision name, or sitio or
>> purok name or
>> neighborhood association name; else the mails get lost.
>> There are no laws
>> governing the "naming of streets". it's a
>> free-for-all system for LGU to
>> name it to any names they like.
>> if we use all fields (1) house number or Lot/Blk/Phase, (2)
>> Floor Number,
>> (3) building name or Apartment name, (4) streetname, (5)
>> sitio or purok, (6)
>> subdivision name (or project name), (7) barangay name, (8)
>> town or city
>> name, (9) province, (10) regions name, (11) country name,
>> (12) zip code...
>> gosh there's a lot of field that will be blank or be
>> filled up with a lot of
>> N/A's
>> because:
>> 1. some don't have House number, but Lot/Blk/Phase ---
>> How do you search Lot
>> Block Phase? Doesn't make sense and creates logistical
>> nightmare. One block
>> normally covers 3-4 streets (on all sides) - not
>> environment friendly - lots
>> of fuel spent searching.
>> 2. If Lot/Blk/Phase is used, then some don't use street
>> names (especially
>> for those subd given permit to sell even without naming
>> their streets), then
>> after a few years put names on the street and mess up the
>> address database.
>> 3. if they don't live in a building, then what's
>> the use of Floor Number and
>> building name field? (imagine the precious terabytes wasted
>> on the harddrive
>> trying to reserved space for these unused space on a
>> typical database)
>> 4. some buildings are condos, some office/residential (so
>> we use "building"
>> field to enter the condo name) when some would insist that
>> it should be on
>> the "Projects Name" --- same field reserved for
>> "Subdivision Name" so which-
>> which? what about a townhouse, since these are not
>> "buildings" but just a
>> "project". There are different impressions from
>> different people, so they
>> either put it on building (where they normally put condos),
>> while others
>> will put it on Subdivision (where they put the name of the
>> project). What
>> about warehouse factories with lots of building names
>> inside an industrial
>> subdivision? this is easy...
>> 5. some subdivision such as beverly hills subd (antipolo)
>> is considered "one
>> whole barangay" by antipolo city; so where do we put
>> it? in "barangay" or
>> "subdivision" field? or both? if both, then what
>> happened if we print it to
>> the mailing envelope using mailmerge... we get
>> "beverly hills subd, beverly
>> hills subd, antipolo city --- let's you think there
>> must be a typo somewhere
>> (because of redundancy).
>> and to think that half of beverly hills subd is also part
>> of Taytay Rizal
>> and is just under Barangay Dolores of Taytay. (there's
>> boundary dispute)
>> 6. some use sitio as another name for purok (in our town,
>> that is the case).
>> Sitio is the name, while that name has an assigned
>> "Purok #". Which one
>> should we put on the address field, the sitio name or the
>> purok number? so
>> stupid and confusing system, don't you think? you
>> can't have both if they
>> mean the same. but if you let people use either, your
>> database search gets
>> messed up.
>> 7. some Neighborhood association (which should be in the
>> "subdivision" field
>> is assigned a "purok" number). While a
>> "subdivision" can also be assigned to
>> a "barangay" field (see number 5). So who is the
>> final arbiter which goes
>> where, when filling up an address form? Answer, an LGU
>> official registry of
>> verified address. If you're address don't appear on
>> the system, then you
>> apply for one, verfied by the tax mapping if such address
>> is under what
>> taxdeclaration number, and connected to the Address
>> Registry Office if a
>> street number, house number, building number, apartment
>> number etc is
>> already assigned to it, or if it does exist.
>> 8. If it's a city within the province, then what do you
>> put in the province
>> field? blank? We normally dont put Antipolo City, Rizal
>> Province (because
>> antipolo has it's own congressional district)
>> 9. if the city is in Metro Manila, then it would appear
>> like Makati City,
>> Metro Manila. In which case, what in what field do we put
>> "Metro Manila", in
>> the province field? (Metro Manila is not a province). If we
>> use NCR instead
>> of Metro Manila, then I guess, we need to put another field
>> for Region,
>> because NCR (or Metro Manila)
>> http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph/explore_phil/explore_main.asp
>> Except for Metro Manila, Region was never a part of address
>> system. So why
>> put Metro Manila as an exception. It's a waste of
>> database field.  gosh, we
>> need to teach all these stupid rules to all filipinos as
>> early as grade 3
>> else they mess up the database, mess up our mail
>> deliveries, as well as
>> those ambulance and police rescue, and pizza deliveries.
>> 10. what about those vacant space in rural areas. No
>> problem in vacant
>> subdivision lots, because chances are, there's a
>> lot/block/phase number
>> assigned to it. In rural settings, rarely do an LGU assign
>> a SPACE number to
>> make it reacheable. Eg. what if you want a truckload of
>> panambak delivered
>> to it. Or you want to rent it for Perya or Bingo Tent
>> operations. In the US,
>> they lease these spaces to RV-truck houses. Mails and pizza
>> can actually be
>> delivered to these SPC (space).
>> we have lots of these confusing address cases. so where do
>> we start? let's
>> build a matrix kaya? i'll supply you with actual stupid
>> addresses made by
>> some people that are giving us headaches and eats up our
>> earnings because of
>> multiple failed delivery attempts.
>> let's crunch first the above puzzles above, and make a
>> fool-proof
>> idiot-proof efficient address system. :-) the resulting
>> databse field will
>> be the one used in data collection for our pilot project in
>> my area.
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