[ Manila Bulletin Online ] February 25, 2009
By ANGIE CHUI
The implementation of a Malacañang order for the 9 p.m. mandatory shutdown of billboard lighting starts today, but outdoor advertisers are appealing for an extension of the lights out order "for the sake of peace and order."
In an interview, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Rafael Yabut said they recently held a meeting with district engineers and regional officers for the full implementation of the law on Feb. 25, which marks the completion of the 15-day publication period.
Yabut is in charge of the department’s Oplan Baklas Billboard drive.
"As of now, we are in the stage of validation, reassessment and actual inventory whether we will go manually (with the implementation of the order), and we will also request for the assistance of the billboard owners to make an inventory of their floodlights and how many spotlights they have for each ad," he said.
He said they would be needing these figures to compute the wattage consumption of the billboards in case they opt to turn on their lights beyond the 9 p.m. prescribed deadline.
The order was issued by the Palace last December in the midst of concerns regarding the adverse effects of carbon footprints emitted by spotlights on global warming.
Outdoor advertisers who violate Executive Order (EO) 774 will have their billboards dismantled or charged with a fee that corresponds to their energy consumption from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Yabut said they have also tapped the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Energy (DoE), the DPWH’s partner agencies under the order.
"Well, there are those (billboard owners) who are willing (to shut off at 9 p.m.), but there are some who have issues and concerns," he said. "I told them to consolidate these concerns and we will bring it to the attention of the Office of the President."
Among the suggestions made by billboard groups was an extension of the 9 p.m. billboard light cutoff in critical areas with peace and order concerns like zones near the university belt and schools where some students take night classes.
"In areas where peace and order is critical for students, especially in university belts and those near schools, sometimes there are classes that take place late at night, " he said. "Sometimes at 9:30 students are only about to go home, so billboard owners are requesting that they keep their lights on until then for the safety of the students. We will consider all these parameters."
He acknowledged that there are times when lighting provided by the outdoor advertisements is helpful. As such, they will weigh the advertisers’ suggestions carefully without having to compromise with the implementation of the EO.
Meanwhile, while they were anticipating the lapse of the publication period this week, he said they already issued notices and advisories to billboard owners, service providers and other stakeholders that they would be required to pay a corresponding fee if they violate the law.
"We are asking for everyone’s cooperation for the sake of the environment," he said.