'Plant ito na lang': Filipinos urged to grow vegetables instead of buying wild plants
Photo from Pixabay shows plants growing.
Marcus Spiske via Pixabay
'Plant ito na lang': Filipinos urged to grow vegetables instead of buying wild plants
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - September 21, 2020 - 3:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — Locked-down Filipinos can plant vegetables in their living spaces instead of purchasing plants—including vulnerable and endangered species—to spruce up their homes.

The ongoing community quarantine in the Philippines—one of the longest and strictest in the world—has boosted the demand for house plants as Filipinos look for hobbies to cope with the pandemic and the strict protocols meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

But this affinity for growing plants at home has resulted in sellers reportedly scouring mountains and forests for plant species such as Alocasia zebrina and Alocasia sanderiana. Bloomberg reported that the country’s Biodiversity Management Bureau is working with the National Bureau of Investigation to catch plant poachers.

Plant thieves also nearly wiped out the monstera plants that have long been inhabiting portions Baguio City’s parks and greenbelts.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment urged home gardeners to learn and abide by the nation’s conservation laws.

Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act prohibits the possession of wild flora and fauna unless authorized by the Department of the Environment of Natural Resources or any related government agency.

“It is tempting to add unique flora to our blossoming collection of plants but driving up demand for such species that are critical will have negative consequences to our rainforests,” Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator, told Philstar.com in an online exchange.

Stick to vegetables

Dulce said it would be better for “plantitas” and “plantitos” to stick to "useful" plants such as vegetables for subsistence or air-purifying plants for conducive work-from-home setups.

This was also the suggestion of Jaypee Estigoy, a Nueva Ecija-based agriculturist. He said chili peppers, tomatoes and eggplants as well as leafy vegetables such as pechay, mustasa and lettuce are easy to grow.

Home gardeners can also explore growing herbs such as mint, stevia, thyme and rosemary in the comfort of their homes.

"Your effort in caring for the plants will be more worthwhile if you can use what you grow,” Estigoy, an agriculture professor at the Central Luzon State University in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, told Philstar.com in Filipino.

Home gardening can help households save on food purchases and ensure that agricultural crops are healthier for human consumption. It can also shorten food miles, which means less use of fuel and therefore less greenhouse gas emission.

In an earlier interview, Estigoy said that vertical gardening or the practice of growing crops in vertically stacked layers is the key to maximizing limited space in densely-populated areas such as Metro Manila. He urged condominium managers or owners of apartment buildings in urban hubs to consider putting up gardens on rooftops where tenants can grow crops.

Communities can also use recycled containers with soil or compost to grow plants and can engage in vermiculture activities to produce quality organic products.

Responsible urban gardening

To promote responsible urban gardening, Kalikasan’s Dulce urged government agencies to provide the public with accessible supplies of a variety of functional plants.

The Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Plant Industry, is distributing planting materials and free vegetables seeds such as eggplant, tomato, upland kangkong, pechay, string beans and upo in urban areas to ensure that food sufficiency is attained.

Seeds are available through the BPI’s offices, through regional field offices of the DA and through an online request form.

“Coupled with public information and education, this will discourage plant poaching and help our populace cope with some of the impacts of the COVID crisis,” Dulce said.

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