MMDA plans to make EDSA billboard-free

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at May 09 2011 11:58 AM | Updated as of May 10 2011 01:15 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is planning to dismantle billboards scattered along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in a few years time.

In an interview with ANC, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said “I’m looking at a long-range plan that EDSA should be billboard-free. They should not be there in the first place.”

He said the National Building Code requires that heritage sites should be free from any billboards. EDSA, for one, is the historical venue of political upheavals, he said.

He said this is a feasible plan, comparing it even to Sau Paulo in Brazil, which became billboard-free in 2 years time. There, advertisers were asked to tap other forms of media to reach out to their intended audience.

“It’s about time we consider the negative notion of culture jamming…Every time motorists see those billboards…it’s a highway-hypnosis,” he added.

Tolentino said he has already given billboard operators “hints” of such plans.

To move into such a transition, the MMDA is planning to require operators to plant 2 trees per billboard.

“A free-standing billboard would mean removing previous vegetation there. If we enforce a 5-meter setback frontage for the billboards, we will require the operator to plant 2 trees…The 4,000 trees would help alleviate pocket-floodings [in Metro Manila],” he said. There are about 2,000 billboards along EDSA.

He said the financial cost to the government is “very minimal.” Before, an operator would only pay the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) P1,500 to put up the billboard.

He said the plans have been bolstered further at the onset of tropical storm Bebeng.

“There was an 85% compliance rate [to roll down tarpaulins], some were caught off-guard.”

This is when a 100-man team from the MMDA goes around town to roll down themselves the tarpaulins. “It is the operators’ prime responsibility [to roll down the tarps] if a storm is coming.”

If the MMDA comes out to roll down the tarps, this should already serve as a notice to erring operators, he said.

Besides EDSA, MMDA also plans to dismantle billboards along the Pasig River “after a serious consultation with operators.” Tolentino said all billboards there violated the National Building Code.

“We are not against billboards per se…but regulation will become the buzzword,” Tolentino added.