MANILA, Philippines – The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority suffered a setback in its ongoing crackdown on illegal billboards after the Court of Appeals ruled that it can no longer dismantle advertising materials posted on the Metro Rail Transit 3.
In a ruling dated April 30, the court said that apart from the fact that MRT 3 was private property, the government had allowed its owner, the Metro Rail Transit Corp. Ltd. (MRTC) to put up ads on the railway transit system.
It added that the MMDA has neither police power nor the authority to enforce the National Building Code to warrant the removal of the billboards and streamers of Trackworks Rail Transit Advertising, Vending and Promotions Inc.
MRTC entered into an exclusive contract for advertising services with Trackworks in 1998.
MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando told the Inquirer that he would appeal the appellate court ruling barring the agency from taking down advertising materials at MRT stations.
“I haven’t seen a copy of that ruling. But if it’s true, we will appeal that,” he said in a phone interview. “These ads are illegal. They are ruining the landscape. Why are the courts allowing them to do so?” he added.
The court decision basically upheld a Pasig Regional Trial Court ruling in 2005 permanently preventing the MMDA from removing Trackworks’ advertisements on the MRT 3.
Trackworks filed a case against the government agency after MMDA personnel dismantled its billboards on the railway transit system.
According to the appellate court, under the 1997 Build, Lease and Transfer agreement between MRTC and the Department of Transportation and Communications, the MRTC would own the MRT for 25 years.
It also said the BLT agreement between the DOTC and MRTC allows the latter to obtain advertising income from the transit system.
“In sum, Trackworks has a right to install signages, banners, billboards and any other commercial advertising medium on the interior and exterior structures of the MRT 3 that must be protected by a writ of preliminary injunction,” the court stressed.
It added, “On the contrary … MMDA has no power to dismantle, remove or destroy the said advertising materials of Trackworks.”
The appellate court pointed out that the MMDA has no police power according to a Supreme Court ruling.
It junked MMDA’s claim that when it removed Trackworks’ advertisements, it was only enforcing Regulation 96-009 and Circular 88-09 prohibiting the posting of billboards, signs and other similar ads on roads, sidewalks and center islands, and banning signs that distract, blind or confuse motorists on roads, islands or sidewalks.
According to the court, MMDA regulations do not apply to Trackworks since the MRT 3 is private property.