Philippines declares war on billboards after typhoon topples dozens of ads

A deadly typhoon that sliced through the northern Philippines last week has unleashed public fury over giant billboards that were blamed for at least one death and downed power lines throughout Manila.

A feisty senator who had previously proposed a bill seeking a ban on highway billboards obstructing the flow of traffic and endangering telephone and utility cables took to the Senate floor this week to declare that Filipinos were living in "billboard hell."

"Who will pay the amount of damages for death caused by criminal billboards? Who shall be liable for the loss of the earning capacity of the deceased?" Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Monday, accusing top 10 billboard advertisers of "unreasoning pursuit of corporate profits, without any sense of social responsibility."

"Innocent human beings were torn from their lives ... because nobody dared to face the reality that we Filipinos are living in billboard hell," she said.

Billboards advertising anything from food to underwear dot Manila's thoroughfares on giant metal structures and stare at drivers and pedestrians from the walls and roofs of residential buildings. Defensor-Santiago had earlier complained that drivers were being distracted by sometimes racy ads showing too much flesh, reports AP.

But the concern over billboards took on a new urgency after Typhoon Xangsane ravaged Manila and neighboring provinces on Thursday, uprooting trees and toppling giant signposts in several places, killing at least one person in Manila's financial district.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Tuesday the government had started dismantling those billboards found to be in violation of public safety.