ROUGH CUTS | Who’s robbing us of the city’s skyline?

LAST Sunday, Jun. 17, 2018, the top story of this paper was captioned, “Reclaiming the city’s skyline” written by reporter Yas D. Ocampo.

It highlighted the existence of a city ordinance that regulates installation of billboards in areas of the city where these would block the view of the scenic Mt. Apo, the country’s tallest mountain. The same story was also triggered by the power interruption in a huge area in Davao City after a large billboard was toppled down hitting the 69 kilovolt power lines of the city’s electric utility at the Bangkal junction last Tuesday, Jun. 13, 2018.
Councilor Ma. Belen Sunga Acosta, chair of the Davao City Council Committee on Peace and Public Safety, immediately called for an investigation to determine the ownership as well as the responsibility of maintaining the large billboards in the city.
The lady councilor insisted that there is already an ordinance regulating the installation of billboards including the determination of its height and size, as well as their locations. The same local law prescribes the appropriate penalties for any violators.
Records will show the ordinance was passed after 18 years of crafting. Eighteen years? That is a record length of time to beat. Wow!
And if we have to take the language use in councilor Acosta’s statement: “It should be properly investigated. There is an ordinance on billboards already. It should be implemented,” it tends to imply that the lady councilor is not even certain if the ordinance is already in effect.
If this was so, then the ordinance never saw the light of day for it to be implemented. Why, because, accordingly, advertisers and possibly the much stronger complainants against the ordinance, the advertising agencies, immediately went to the court to have the local legislation repealed. And the complainants succeeded both in the regional court and the Court of Appeals, according to the report.

Apparently, the City Government of Davao elevated the case to the Supreme Court which, according to the report, reversed the repeal decisions.
Unfortunately, it was not mentioned in the report, nor was it mentioned by Councilor Acosta when the Supreme Court reversed the initial repeals by the two lower courts.
Had the date been divulged we would have basis in determining whether there was negligence on the part of the local government in not being able to implement the said ordinance even after the High Court affirmed its validity.
The fate of the ordinance herein-mentioned also reminds us of the many other ordinances that has noble intentions but ended up hardly seen as significant. And the reason is simple — lack of foresight and proper planning for its effective implementation.
In the herein ordinance on billboards Acosta seems uncertain who will maintain the installations. According to the lady councilor, “billboard users are supposed to be responsible for its maintenance.”
Why, is it not clearly provided in the ordinance as to who is responsible for the billboard upkeep?
On the other hand, the report mentioned that the herein-mentioned ordinance “prohibits large format billboards” especially those that would block the view of Mt. Apo.
Now, why did Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio asked last year the Department heads to consider drafting an ordinance limiting the size of structures which we believe include those of billboard installations? That ordinance is likely wanting in content.
On the other hand we are convinced that the reason why there are wanton violations of the ordinance is, first and foremost, there was no information dissemination campaign about the repeal of the ordinance by the Supreme Court. Meaning the ruling by the High Court affirming the validity of the ordinance should have been communicated to all stakeholders.
Had this been done we can be certain that the advertisers and the agencies that they commissioned would never make any attempt to violate the ordinance given the prescribed penalties.
Of course it’s never too late to implement what could be a novel local legislation. But we recommend that the local government constitutes a unit that will closely and regularly monitor billboard installations and check on its compliance with the provisions of the ordinance.

If this is not done then we cannot expect that the incident the other Tuesday evening not to happen again.

Posted in Opinion