February 1, 2023

The “plantdemic” and “plantitas” fever now sweeping the country has not spared Baguio City, which like other localities is now left to contend with the rise in plant poaching incidents.
Amid the craze, which has taken on popularity as a diversion if not a cure for pandemic-induced boredom and depression, the City Environment and Parks Management Office reported losing some plant species in the city’s parks and greenbelts to plant thieves.
Cepmo Asst. Department Head Rhenan Diwas said poachers nearly wiped out the monstera plants long inhabiting portions of Mines View Park and Burnham Park.
Monstera or Swiss Cheese plant has become an in demand indoor plant and now sells at a high price.
Diwas also reported that City Hall Park was divested of succulents while the Upper Session Road greenbelt was stripped off of rubber trees. Both species also have great following in the plant market.
He said other parks and pocket gardens are now being inspected to check their conditions following discovery of the plant theft incidents.
A local netizen earlier posted a video showing unidentified women swiping plants from one of the city’s public elementary schools.
“While we appreciate the growing interest of the people to maintain plants in their homes and we understand the need of some to earn, let us be reminded to respect 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 the habitat of wildlife.”
To prevent similar incidents, measures will be undertaken to enhance security in the parks.
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.
Barangays will also be asked to help by guarding the parks and greenbelts within their jurisdictions and to immediately report cases.
Residents are also being encouraged to help by reporting similar incidents by taking photos or videos of said acts.
Diwas warned that 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
“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 RA 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. – Aileen P. Refuerzo