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By Tina Santos
Inquirer
First Posted 10:34pm (Mla time) 10/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- A Manila court issued on Tuesday a temporary restraining order stopping the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from dismantling billboards in the city and other advertising structures put up by an association of local advertisers.

Judge Emma Young of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 36 issued the order following the motion filed by the Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines (OAAP) which claimed that the DPWH violated due process.

OAAP alleged that the new billboard circulars signed by DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. were not in accordance with the clear mandate of the provisions of the National Building Code.

The billboard company questioned the circular's provisions on road setbacks and the sizes of roof signs, saying there was "no such setback requirement under existing laws."

The new circular requires free-standing billboards to be at least eight meters off main roads with widths of 30 meters or more, like Edsa. A setback of six meters is required off roads with widths of 25-29 meters. Setbacks are also mandated behind and beside free-standing billboards.

However, Ebdane insisted that the DPWH's "Oplan Baklas Billboard" was implemented based on the existing rules and regulations under the National Building Code to assure public safety and prevent any untoward incident brought by toppling of illegal and unsafe billboards especially during strong typhoons.

The DPWH and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) have been dismantling billboards pursuant to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administrative order that calls for the removal of billboards located on the road right-of-way, in violation of the National Building Code, or are built without the proper permits and thus pose a risk to public safety.

At the height of Supertyphoon "Milenyo" in September last year, several giant billboards collapsed, killing a man and injuring several others. This prompted Arroyo to order the DPWH to inspect all billboards in the country and take down those found to be violating the National Building Code.

DPWH National Building Code Development Office Director Emmanuel Cuntapay said that other Oplan Baklas Billboard operations in Metro Manila and other regions would continue.

In National Capital Region, the DPWH has already dismantled a total of 3,890 illegal and unsafe billboards along national roads, Cuntapay said.


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