THE otherwise quiet ornamental plant community suddenly gets the limelight as waves of initiates, now dubbed as “plantitos” and “plantitas,” scamper into the hobby in the thick of quarantines in this pandemic. The psychic gratification one gets from plant caring is a welcome coping mechanism these days. For some, though, the hobby also becomes a way to carry on financially amid the crisis.
Unfortunately, though, the community has been mired recently with reports of plant poaching, trading of endangered wildlife and unbridled profiteering.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Visayas has again emphasized its call for the public to immediately report unscrupulous individuals and groups engaging in illegal selling and collection of wild and endangered ornamental plants.
DENR-CV Executive Director Paquito Melicor warns the public against collecting and gathering of wild plants, citing Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
Melicor said it is his agency’s office that is responsible for the protection of these wildlife species from illegal commercialization. They have deployed their wildlife enforcement officers to monitor illegal activities in areas such as seaports and airports, but the agency is asking the community’s help in monitoring for suspected violators in their respective areas. Collection and trade of endangered plant or animal species must be covered by a DENR permit, Melicor said.
The current crisis has sent not a few people in the rural communities resorting to hunting wild plants as alternative source of income as the plant community and trading expands. The craze threatens wildlife plants and diminishes biodiversity in forest areas.
Climate action advocates warned of potential extinction of ornamental flowers that support pollinator species for mutual survival. Reports said a good number of ornamental plants that are now flooding the market have only been recently declared as endangered. An unwitting initiate into the plant community may not be aware of wildlife species in his collection and may face the consequences of the law.
It is, therefore, important as well that the DENR plays an active role in educating the community if it also intends to seek its help in monitoring against poaching.
RA 9147 provides both imprisonment, ranging from two to four years, and/or penalty for violators from P30,000 to P300,000 for hunting and P5,000 to P300,000 for trading. A mere transport could result to a penalty of six months to a year of imprisonment and/or P50,000 to P100,000 fine.
Imagine the sudden incarceration of clueless plantitas and plantitos in the time of the pandemic, a possibility they could never have imagined while trying to achieve the desired psychic rewards amid troubled times.