TROs slowing drive vs risky billboardsBy Niña Calleja
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Court battles and threats of legal action are preventing the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from curbing the proliferation of billboards in the capital, especially now that almost half of those found on major roads are protected by temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by the courts.
This was according to the head of the MMDA’s anti-illegal billboard task force, which often draws flak over accidents involving these giant signs especially during bad weather.
Jose Edgrado Lara said the agency currently faces court cases filed by five different advertising companies which own 40 percent of the total number of billboards in Metro Manila.
One of them is United Neon Signs and Services which secured a TRO from Pasay City Regional Trial Court Judge Divina Gracia Pelino early this year to stop MMDA from removing its billboards. United Eon owns and manages around 100 billboards in the metropolis, Lara said.
As Tropical Storm “Gener” pounded Metro Manila and nearby provinces on Sunday, MMDA workers rolled down at least 10 giant billboards following reports of these structures toppling down in Merville, Parañaque City, and Balintawak, Quezon City.
The toppled billboards disrupted power supply and caused damage to property, Lara said in an interview.
That same day, the task force found many more billboards to be in violation of MMDA’s safety guidelines, including one “oversized” sign that was erected on top of a building at the corner of Vito Cruz Street and South Superhighway, he said.
“It’s not safe because the building was not designed for another structure,” Lara noted. After the inspection, the MMDA immediately had the billboard removed.
But Lara recalled that whenever an illegal billboard is removed, the MMDA would be facing a long-drawn court battle “or (the owners) would threaten to sue us.”