OUTDOOR ADVERTISING ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES
( O A A P )
POSITION PAPER ON SENATE BILL NO. 1714
“Being an integral part of mass media, [the outdoor advertising industry] has a powerful influence on society. Today, the industry is an effective instrument, not only to catch attention and shore up sales, but as a means to attain desired social change, disseminate unconventional ideas, and promote belief and behavior that affect the daily life of the people.”
Advancements in technology which now allow for brilliant, vivid, photographic colors have made billboards an attractive alternative to tri-media. Not only has it become a very effective advertising medium but a very cost-effective one as well. One needs only to look around while traversing the length of EDSA to see the sudden dramatic increase in interest from Advertisers over the last few years.
Consequently, there is now a very high demand for spaces wherein billboard displays can be erected. As a result, different types of outdoor advertising media have found their way into every nook and cranny available outdoors. Unfortunately, they have also found their way into places where they should not be, causing not only visual clutter which some sectors have described as visual pollution, but more importantly, posing as a very real threat to the safety of commuters and pedestrians daily.
It is, understandably, in this light that Senate Bill No. 1714 was introduced as an ostensible means to regulate construction and placement of outdoor advertising media on public roads. Contrary to its explanatory note, however, construction, placement and display of billboards are currently regulated both by national laws and local ordinances. Hence, whether billboards constitute a public nuisance or not has likewise been the responsibility of government from the very start.
It cannot be denied, however, that the outdoor advertising industry contributes to the economy. It has grown into a multi-million peso industry, driven as an economical alternative or supplement to any marketing campaign. Its proliferation has likewise meant jobs derived from the construction, placement and display thereof.
Moreover, the OAAP takes exception to terming its industry as “blight.” It puts the entire outdoor advertising industry in a negative light. Properly and strategically placed, the OAAP’s products can enhance scenery as technology has allowed more colorful and attractive displays.
The OAAP is the oldest and only existing organization of Outdoor Advertising practitioners in the country, having been organized in 1964 and national in its scope, having chapters in the Visayas and Mindanao. The collective technical expertise of its members in the outdoor advertising industry is unparalleled and unquestionable. The OAAP, has the expertise, experience and full appreciation of pertinent laws governing its industry and can certainly assist this Honorable Senate in crafting policy that will prove beneficial to all concerned.
II. Current Legal Framework
Contrary to the explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 1714, the construction, placement and display of billboards is heavily regulated, as shall be stated below.
Construction of billboards is regulated under Chapter 20 of Presidential Decree No. 1096, otherwise known as the “National Building Code.” It states:
Sec. 2001. General Requirements
(a) No sign or signboard shall be erected in such manner as to confuse or obstruct the view or interpretation of any official traffic sign, signal, or device.
(b) No sign or signboard shall be constructed as to unduly obstruct the natural view of the landscape, distract or obstruct the view of the public as to constitute a traffic hazard, or otherwise defile, debase or offend aesthetic and cultural values and traditions.
Sec. 2002. Maintenance
All signs, together with all of their supports, braces, guys and anchors, shall be kept in repair and in proper state of preservation. The display of all signs shall be kept nearly painted and secured at all times.
Sec. 2003. Design and Construction
Sign structures shall be designed and constructed to resist all forces in accordance with the National Structural Code for Buildings. For signs on buildings, the dead and lateral loads shall be transmitted through structural frame of the building to the ground in such a manner as not to overstress any of the elements of the building. The weight of earth superimposed over footings may be used in determining the dead load resisting moment. Such earth shall be carefully placed and thoroughly compacted.
Sec. 2004. Supports and Anchorages
The supports and anchorage of all signs or sign structures shall be placed in or upon private property and shall be constructed in conformity with the requirements of this Code.
(b) Materials. Materials for construction of signs or sign structures shall be of the quality and grade as specified in this Code.
(c) Restrictions on Combustible Materials - All signs or sign structures erected in highly restrictive Fire Zones shall have structural members of incombustible materials. Ground signs may be constructed of any material meeting the requirements of this Code. Combinations signs, roof signs, wall signs, projecting signs, and signs on marquees shall be constructed of incombustible materials. No combustible material other than approved plastics shall be used in the construction of electrical signs.
(d) Non-Structural Trim - Non-structural trim and portable display surfaces may be of wood, metal, approved plastics, or any combination thereof.
(e) Display Surfaces - Display surfaces in all types of signs may be made of metal, glass, or approved plastics.
Sec. 2005. Projections and Clearances
(a) Clearances from High Voltage Power Lines - Clearances of signs from high voltage power lines shall be in accordance with the Philippine Electrical Code.
(b) Clearances from Fire Escapes, Exits, or Standpipes - No signs or sign structures shall be erected in such a manner than any portion to its surface or supports will interfere in any way with the free use of any fire escape, exit, or standpipe.
(c) Obstruction of Openings. No sign shall obstruct any opening to such an extent that light ventilation is reduced to a point below that required by this Code. Signs erected within 1.50 meters of an exterior wall in which there are openings within the area of the sign shall be constructed of incombustible material or approved plastics.
(d) Projection Over Alleys. No sign or sign structure shall project into any public alley below a height of 3.00 meters above established sidewalk grade, nor project more than 300 millimeters where the sign structure is located 3.00 meters to 4.5 meters above established sidewalk grade. The sign or sign structure must not project more than 1.00 meter into the public alley where the sign or sign structure is located more than 4.50 meters above established sidewalk grade.
Sec. 2006. Lighting
Signs shall be illuminated only by electrical means in accordance with the Philippine Electrical Code.
Placement of such billboards is a settled issue insofar as national road rights-of-way are concerned. Section 2001 of The National Building Code prohibits the placement of all forms of outdoor advertising media within national road rights-of-way such as, but not limited to, center islands, electrical & lamp posts, pedestrian overpasses and sidewalks, traffic signs, MRT, LRT and flyover columns and other illegal locations.
Section 30 of Republic Act No. 917, otherwise known as the “Philippine Highway Act of 1953,” as amended, makes it unlawful for any outdoor advertisement to usurp any portion of the right of way for private use or to obstruct the same in any manner.
The OAAP has written a letter to the Department of Public Works and Highways (“DPWH”) to confirm the foregoing prohibitions. While the DPWH has responded favorably in a letter-opinion addressed to the OAAP dated 21 July 2001, there were no steps undertaken to enforce these prohibitions. The DPWH who has jurisdiction over national roads and tasked with the implementation of the national building code which covers the said law, by its own admission, lack the police power necessary to go after violators of the said law.
When the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (“MMDA”) attempted to enforce the foregoing rules as regards the proliferation of advertising materials on MRT columns, the company, a non-OAAP member, obtained a court injunction which remains pending to this day.
III. Inadequacies of the Current Legal Framework
The inadequacies of the current legal framework fall under two categories. The first deals with inherent substantive inadequacies in the laws themselves. The second lies in the implementation.
As regards substantive inadequacies, these foregoing prohibitions have loopholes, to wit:
a. They cover only national road rights-of-way. They do not cover municipal, city or barangay roads.
b. They do not cover railroad rights-of-way. The OAAP considers these areas as even more dangerous due to the additional stresses and vibrations in the area. Moreover, though illegal, these areas are peculiarly populated. Sadly, accidents have already occurred along such areas, as the OAAP shall present.
c. They do not likewise address the issue of blocking ( a billboard display infront is obstructing another billboard display behind it ) that has resulted in damage suits that have been counter-productive in the outdoor advertising industry. The cases have likewise contributed to the clogging of the court’s dockets.
More importantly, there are inadequacies insofar as implementation is concerned. While our laws are clear on the prohibitions, there is confusion as to which government agency implements them. While the DPWH has clearly maintained the prohibitions of placement, it has limited to non-existent powers to enforce it.
Hence, the primary line of regulation has always been with the local government units with their issuance of building permits. The problems of placement should have been addressed at the very start from the building permit level. The proliferation cited by Senate Bill No. 1714 in its explanatory note is sufficient proof that local governments have failed in this respect. Despite the existence of the foregoing laws, various entities are still able to secure permits from local building officials. The OAAP has been calling the attention of pertinent government agencies regarding the present situations.
In fact, the MMDA has entered into questionable memoranda of agreement for the continued display of outdoor advertising along pedestrian overpasses, a rampant phenomenon, as any motorist may notice.
IV. Billboard Display
As this has constitutional implications on freedom of speech, the OAAP believes that this is the proper matter of self-regulation.
This has been the advocacy and the practice of the Advertising Board of the Philippines (the “ADBOARD”), where the OAAP is a member organization. The ADBOARD screens billboard for content and issues clearances that OAAP members require before an outdoor advertising sign is displayed.
The OAAP believes that the present situation is enough. However, not all outdoor advertising practitioners are OAAP members and hence self-regulation as regards content mere goes up to that extent.
V. Proposed solutions
Revisions on the National Building Code as regards structural and building specifications are already due given the changing times. In this regard, the OAAP is willing to assist this Honorable Senate in crafting new standards and specification to meet such changing times.
More importantly, the pertinent government agency (or agencies) that will implement the laws on billboards has to be clearly defined.
At the threshold is the policy issue of where to lodge this power. During OAAP deliberations on the matter, some argue that putting the implementation aspect in a national level frees it from local political influence. Others argue that localized implementation bodies would address better conditions indigenous to their localities such as presence of historical and tourist attractions, land use plan and others. This policy issue has to be addressed by this Honorable Senate and the OAAP is willing to assist in determining which direction to take.
The OAAP, however, is of the position that the industry has to be represented in this respect in either case.
For this reason, the OAAP respectfully proposes the institution of bodies that would issue construction and placement clearances that are required for the issuance of building permits. However, there must be a representative from the duly accredited and recognized outdoor advertising industry association in whatever body this Honorable Senate shall create.
FRANCISCO T. ABUEVA
CARLO S. LLAVE
OAAP Chairman of the Board