‘Plantdemic:’ Reinvigorated Baguio parks hit by plant thieves

Artemio Dumlao - The Philippine Star
âPlantdemic:â Reinvigorated Baguio parks hit by plant thieves
Baguio residents enjoy a morning walk in Burnham Park as the city reopened its parks earlier this month.
Andy Zapata Jr.

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Even Baguio City’s reinvigorated parks have become victims of “plant poachers” as a so-called plantdemic sweeps the country.

Amid the craze that has gained popularity as a diversion, if not a cure for COVID-19 pandemic-induced boredom and depression, the City Environment and Parks Management Office yesterday reported losing some plant species in the city’s parks and greenbelts to plant thieves.

Assistance City Environment and Parks Management Officer Rhenan Diwas said poachers nearly wiped out the monstera plants that have long been inhabiting portions of Mines View Park and Burnham Park.

Monstera is the “monstera deliciosa” or “Swiss cheese” plant, which has become an in-demand indoor plant and is selling like hotcakes and valued like gold.

Succulents at the City Hall Park were also taken, according to Diwas, while the Upper Session Road greenbelt was stripped of its rubber trees.

Both species also have great following among “plantitas” and “plantitos.”

Other parks and pocket gardens in the city are now being inspected to check their conditions following the discovery of plant thieveries.

A video of unidentified women swiping plants from one of the city’s public elementary schools had earlier gone viral.

“While we appreciate the growing interest of the people in maintaining plants in their homes and we understand the need of some to earn, let us be reminded (of respecting) the natural habitat of these plants. Allow them to multiply in the forest rather than constricted in a pot. Let them grow and bloom in public places for everyone to appreciate,” Diwas said.

“We should learn from this pandemic: it is dangerous to encroach on the habitat of wildlife,” he added.

To prevent the balding of city parks, security measures will be undertaken in the parks, according to Diwas.

“Apart from the regular security personnel detailed in the parks, the city will tap the Public Order and Safety Division to include the parks in their daily roving itineraries,” he said.

Barangays will also be asked to help by guarding the parks and greenbelts within their jurisdictions and to immediately report cases of plant theft.

Residents are also being encouraged to help by reporting such incidents through captured photos or recorded videos of these acts.

Plant poaching, picking or cutting of plants within government properties such as parks, watersheds, forest reservations and other public spaces is a criminal act punishable by law, Diwas warned.

“Anyone caught will be charged for violation of the city’s Environment Code and can be subjected to a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment for a period of not less than five days, or both. If the plant belongs to the endangered or threatened species (such as particular species of Alocasia), the person will be charged, too, for violation of Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. Violators can face imprisonment from six to 12 years and a fine of P100,000 to P1 million,” he said.

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