SUBIC BAY FREE PORT — Businessmen in this free port are now advocating for a ban on commercial billboards along the scenic Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), pointing out that an unsullied view of the natural landscape would be a better come-on for tourists.
Prof. Danny Piano, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC), said tourists have expressed appreciation of the billboard-free view along the SCTEx, adding that a lack of clear-cut policies on commercial billboards might spur the proliferation of giant outdoor advertisements along the 94-kilometer expressway.
“The scenery along SCTEx, when blocked by giant billboards, could also seriously harm tourism in the area,” Piano warned.
“[Billboards] will destroy the beautiful landscape, which is the foundation of the tourism industry,” Piano said during the recent taping here of The Freeport Forum, a new television show covering developments in Subic and the Clark Free Port.
He added that concerned government agencies should come up with clear and strict policies against the erection of billboards along the SCTEx, which was built to hasten the flow of goods and services between economic centers in the Central Luzon region.
Piano said Subic businessmen, who consider tourism as a major industry in this free port, believe it is in the best interest of the public to prohibit billboard advertisements along the SCTEx.
“There is a growing movement to make this so,” Piano said, adding that his group’s position is backed by several organizations and local government units (LGUs).
Piano said the SBFCC has sent a position paper on the proposed billboards ban to Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Narciso Abaya, who reportedly committed his agency’s full support to protect beautiful sceneries along the SCTEx.
However, Piano said the BCDA hedged on its jurisdiction over billboards erected outside the right-of-way (ROW) limits of the SCTEx, saying that outside the ROW, the rights of owners of the private properties will prevail.
Because of this, Piano said the national government must integrate policies related to the construction of billboards and place the responsibility of implementation under a single agency.
“In the meantime, agreements between [concerned] agencies and LGUs could be employed [to effect the billboards ban],” Piano said.
He added that Olongapo City has already passed a resolution for the abatement and dismantling of billboards along the SCTEx.
Last year a Pampanga board member voiced the same sentiment, and recently CDC director Maximo Sangil asked the same from Abaya, according to Piano.
Piano also pointed out that one reason why European countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, Ireland and Austria retained their appeal to visitors despite rapid development in their respective countryside was the prohibition of billboards along highways.
“Business people in these countries recognize that an unmarred landscape promotes tourism and benefits them in the long run,” Piano said.
In the United States, he added, the state of Vermont, likewise, recorded a 50-percent rise in tourism in the first two years that its highways became billboard-free.
Meanwhile, the move to ban commercial billboards along the SCTEx is gaining support from users of Facebook, a popular social-networking site online. To date, 157 Facebook users have joined the cause to preserve the scenery along the SCTEx and “save the virgin countryside from commercialism.” Written by Henry Empeño - Business Mirror Correspondent