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Signs of the times – road signs or ads?

A friend recently posted an episode on his vlog that featured the excessive signage we now find along many roads. I thought this was a relevant topic as, for one, there are many signs that are basically contributing to the “visual pollution” that tend to either distract travellers or make them numb about these signs. Hindi pa kasali dito ang mga LED/video ads that are now installed around the metropolis. Being a distraction means they may lead to road crashes. But then there is also the issue of clutter and obstruction. I noticed that many signs have been installed without consideration of the spaces required by pedestrians and cyclists. Many seem to have been forcibly installed at locations blocking the path of pedestrians.

So which among these signs is the only one that should be there? Only one and that is the one in the middle informing travellers of the signalised intersection ahead. The others are basically ads masquerading as signs (directional signs to be more specific).

I avoid describing inappropriate signs as ‘illegal’ simply because the proponents were given permission for installation by local government units including the MMDA. LGUs seem to benefit from these as I also see inappropriate signs bearing the logos or slogans of LGUs. Meanwhile, the DPWH seems to be mum about this concern, which appears to be a non-issue among the government entities involved. What do you think about such ads pretending to be road signs?

What the DPWH says about the installation of ads including those masquerading as signs

So what does the DPWH say about signs and their installation? The DPWH in their Highway Safety Design Standards (Part 2: Road Signs and Pavement Markings Manual) states the following:


It’s plain and simple and yet we find a proliferation of ads masquerading as signs and entities such as the MMDA and LGUs not properly (or strictly) implementing the provisions of the DPWH manual. It is also sad to see practitioners actively trying (and succeeding) to circumvent this provision in the DPWH manual.

More on ads masquerading as signs

I recently wrote about what I thought were ads masquerading as signs. It turns out a friend also took notice of similar signs along Katipunan and decided to make this a topic of his vlog. I learned that he has corresponded with the MMDA regarding this matter and even contacted the company behind these ads (I would prefer to call them what they really are.) to get their take on the matter. It turns out that the company is quite aware that what they are doing are basically not according to DPWH guidelines pertaining to signage. I wouldn’t and couldn’t say it is illegal since the MMDA and LGUs gave their approvals for these ads to be installed.


Approaching Cainta Junction from Antipolo, there is a sign that advertises Cherry Antipolo, which is all the way back and past Masinag Junction along Marcos Highway.

Less than a kilometre away from Masinag Junction along Sumulong Highway, there’s another ad posing as a road sign and from a certain angle it covers a more important traffic advisory concerning the construction of the Line 2 Extension.

This ad doesn’t even pretend anymore since all directions point to an Ayala Mall!

Following are examples of what may be tolerated and what must be disapproved and therefore removed. Guidelines are important so that the criteria for signs including ads masquerading as such will be clearly spelled out and approval/disapproval will not be

Logical: The photo below shows a sign installed by the DPWH showing the general directions for towns (Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo) or major thoroughfares (EDSA). The smaller sign is actually an ad for a mall but is located near a major junction (Cainta Junction – intersection of Ortigas Avenue Extension and Felix Avenue/A. Bonifacio Avenue) and may perhaps be tolerated as the mall is close by. Such a sign can be justified to assure or validate the direction to be taken by a traveler headed for this mall.

Not logical: The sign below is meters away from Masinag Junction in Antipol but advertises the same mall as the previous sign. It is not logical and should not have been approved since it is far from the destination mall and does not offer a validation or assurance for direction like the previous sign. In fact, the same mall chain has a branch nearby in the Masinag area and another one further on along the Marikina River. This sign should be removed as it adds to the clutter, the visual noise that makes people blind or numb to the actual road signs that require their attention.


[Disclaimer: For purposes of transparency, my colleagues and I also have worked as consultants for projects such as malls but never have we recommended for signs like these.]

On unnecessary signages

Most of us who use roads whether as private motorists, public transport users, cyclists or pedestrians would notice a lot of signs along our roads. In fact, there seems to be too many signs along our roads including ads and information signs for commercial establishments. Electronic screens can be particularly distracting to drivers not just for their content but due to their brightness that can affect the eyesights.

However, there are also ads that are masquerading as traffic signs. These are designed as standard traffic signs providing directions to travellers using materials that are typically prescribed for signs produced and installed by the DPWH and LGUs according to the reference manuals.

Ads and signs along Katipunan Road – the ads are obvious for their commercial purpose. The sign is actually a promotion for a commercial development that is a bit far from this area.

Here is another sign near the northbound approach to Masinag Junction along Sumulong Highway. The mall chain has a branch near the junction along Marcos Highway but the sign directs you to another along Ortigas Avenue Extension.

I believe the DPWH, MMDA and LGUs should be stricter about road signs. These add to the visual noise that is already present with all the ads (especially electronic ones) along our roads. These, too, have costs for their sponsors and we suspect that these are part of the recommendations made by traffic consultants who also have connections with the suppliers of these signs. If true, then these consultants are making the profession look bad through these questionable recommendations.

On a proposal to redesign bus stops and signs in Metro Manila

Here’s another quick post but it is something that should be picked up by government agencies particularly the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The following link is from, which conducted a study on their own and came up with this:

A Redesign of Bus Stops and Signage in Metro Manila

The idea is not at all a new one considering you will see such appropriate stop designs and signs abroad. These are good designs that make a lot of sense (See the visuals in the article for you to be convinced). Only, the MMDA and other agencies including local government units are notoriously stubborn when it comes to innovative ideas that challenge the templates that they are used to. Perhaps the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can also take a look at these ideas considering public transport is regulated by LTFRB and the agency can take a progressive stance in ruling for more uniform bus body designs. Meanwhile, the DPWH is in-charge of most road signs along national roads like EDSA and should also be proactive in the design of signage while also keeping in mind the international standards that we need to conform with. As for the buses themselves, the recommendations underline the need to streamline (read: reduce) the number of buses and players and the rationalization (read: simplify) routes in Metro Manila. Maybe they can start doing the livery for the P2P buses to show how the concept works?