Groups cite 7 presidential bets for common stance to regulate billboards

Quezon City. Environmental advocacy groups cited seven presidential bets for their sensitivity to visual pollution and the public safety risks posed by huge billboards.

The EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace lauded presidential candidates Coun. JC de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran Party, Sen. Dick Gordon of Bagumbayan Movement, Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, Sen. Noynoy Aquino of Liberal Party, Sen. Manny Villar of Nacionalista Party, Sen. Jamby Madrigal and environmentalist Nicky Perlas for their common position to regulate billboards.

The seven candidates articulated their views regarding the proliferation of billboards in their responses to the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI), a pre-election survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace to determine the position of presidential candidates on key environmental issues facing the nation. Former Defense Sec. of Lakas-CMD Gibo Teodoro and former President Joseph Estrada of Partido ng Masang Pilipino did not respond to the survey.

“If one of the seven candidates wins in May, we hope that he or she will finally put a break to the explosion of billboards that impairs and ruins the view, distracts drivers, consumes loads of PVC and electricity, and causes physical harm when billboards are knocked down by the forces of nature or give way due to structural flaws,” said Sonia Mendoza of the Mother Earth Foundation and EcoWaste Coalition.

Oversized billboards gained notoriety in September 2006 when typhoon Milenyo toppled dozens of billboards in Metro Manila, killing one driver when one giant billboard fell and smashed his van and prompting Sens. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Bong Revilla to co-sponsor Senate Bill 2482 or the Anti-Billboard Blight Act to regulate the placement of billboard signs.

Billboards recently grabbed headlines when the Commission on Elections ordered non-compliant candidates, including some presidential and senatorial aspirants, to dismantle their oversized campaign billboards installed in major thoroughfares.

The seven presidential bets drew attention to the need to protect the natural environment from being spoiled by out-of-size, out-of-place billboards, which can also cause accidents and threaten public safety.

Two candidates drew attention on how billboards invade and take over public spaces.

“Cleaning up our cities requires the management of our public spaces. Buildings and scaffolds may be owned privately, but unsightly billboards impact upon the public space by imposing a view on others,” Gordon said.

“We need to reclaim public space,” Madrigal asserted.

Other candidates underscored the public safety issues linked with billboards.

“They’re not only eyesores, but also a distraction to drivers, making them a road safety hazard,” Aquino said.

“We must determine what is permissible considering the hazards which these billboards may cause to our motorists and pedestrians,” Villar stated.

Most candidates saw the need to impose regulations and standards with respect to the size, location and engineering requirements of billboards “that would not require the cutting down of trees and/or compromise natural scenic views that detach citizens from environmental appreciation and care” as Villanueva pointed out.

As far as political billboards are concerned, Coun. de los Reyes cited AKP’s political platform #37, which forbids the setting up of billboards or similar media in public places with pictures of the public official responsible for the project or for any other purpose.

Apart from the aesthetic, public space and safety issues, the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace added that policy makers also need to look at the environmental and climate impacts of billboards that are notorious for their massive consumption of PVC plastic as well as electricity to light up their advertising messages at night.