If there's anything that rings true about our time in quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic, in general, it's that people have been turning to plants for comfort and a sense of calmness. Plants are known to purify the air you breathe, help you sleep better, and repel annoying mosquitoes Plus, they reduce your stress, improve your mood, and promote mindfulness. It's no wonder people have been passionate about growing their home gardens.
But the demand for more plants has also had a negative effect. An article published by Bloomberg reports that the government has started monitoring protected natural areas to keep people from stealing plants—especially endangered species: Alocasia Zebrina and Alocasia Sanderiana, to be exact.
Rogelio Demallete, an ecosystem specialist at the Biodiversity Management Bureau said, "Illegal gatherers and collectors are having a fiesta because the market is bigger and prices are more attractive." Among the targeted plants are carniverous pitcher plants and bantigue trees, both of which are popular in crafting bonsai.
There's also been a spike in plant prices, if you compare it to the rates before the pandemic. Plant hobbyist Win Marcella shared that caladiums, rubber trees, and ferns from legal nurseries have been selling for as much as 35 to 40 percent more than what it cost pre-COVID-19. For example, a Monstera Deliciosa, which originally would cost around P800, now sells for at least P3,000.
With more shops popping up and existing businesses transitioning or shifting to try their hand at selling plants, it seems like people won't be moving on from plants anytime soon.
Still, the government warns against "plant poaching." Crisanta Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Zamboanga Peninsula reminded, "The collection of wild flora directly from the forest, especially those considered as threatened species, without permit is prohibited under Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act."
Fines can be anywhere from P100,000 to P1,000,000; imprisonment, from six to 12 years.