Dismantle billboards in Manila

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — AT least 21 billboards fell—some with deadly effect—at the height of typhoon Milenyo, triggering new calls in Metro Manila for their removal or for more stringent rules on their placement.

At least one person, a taxi driver, was killed by a giant billboard that crashed onto his vehicle on Estrella Street in Makati. Another taxi driver was injured in the same accident.

Fallen billboards also created huge traffic jams along Edsa and other Metro Manila streets yesterday.

The Metro Manila Development Authority, which has led a campaign to ban, outdoor advertisements, said most of the billboards that fell during the storm were positioned along the East Service Road on the border of Parañaque and Muntinlupa cities.

Two giant billboards also fell in Alabang and Magallanes, while eight others were blown away and landed inside property lines on the West Service Road.

MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando blamed local governments that gave building permits to billboard owners.

“I have never signed any permit,” Fernando said, noting that the advertisers had bypassed his agency by getting clearances from city governments.

But Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday urged Metro Manila mayors to sue the owners of the fallen billboards for damages.

She also asked the Supreme Court to investigate judges who had issued temporary restraining orders to the MMDA to prevent it from tearing them down.

“Metro Manila is one of the ugliest and most unsafe capitals in the world because of these giant billboards,” Santiago said.

“These public hazards are driven by pure corporate greed without any sense of social responsibility. It’s time to teach business a lesson.”

Santiago, author of the Anti-Billboard Blight Act of 2006, wants to ban all giant advertising displays along major roads.

“All giant billboards should be torn down immediately, and judges should not issue TROs. Those already torn down by the typhoon should not be restored,” she said.

Santiago’s bill says advertising billboards and signs are distracting to motorists and pose road-safety risks. But this week’s typhoon damage showed that billboards could also threaten people who lived near them, officials said.

Senator Edgardo Angara said Malacañang could ban billboards through an administrative order even before the Santiago bill passed.

Under a Metro Manila Council regulation passed in 2004, advertisers must secure MMDA clearance before they can put up any billboard, particularly along major roads.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered Fernando and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. to recommend more stringent rules governing billboard the placements.

Ebdane said his office would inspect all billboards in Metro Manila to make sure they did no damage in the next typhoons.

“The structures found to be hazardous have to be brought down,” he said.

Fernando said it would take two weeks to clear the streets of fallen billboards and trees.