The COVID-19 pandemic has set off a wave of theft in the Philippines. The target? Plants.
The government has stepped up monitoring of social media and patrolling of protected natural areas amid reports of traders scouring mountains and forests for plants, including endangered species, to meet a sudden spike in demand from locked-down Filipinos who are craving some greenery in their homes.
“Illegal gatherers and collectors are having a fiesta because the market is bigger and prices are more attractive,” said Rogelio Demallete, an ecosystem specialist at the Philippines Biodiversity Management Bureau. “People are buying and raising plants because of boredom from the quarantine.”
Carniverous pitcher plants and bantigue trees, popular in crafting bonsai, are among those sought after, Demallete said.
The bureau’s agents, hampered by quarantine restrictions, are working with the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation to catch illegal gatherers and traders of the “vulnerable” and “endangered” species such as Alocasia zebrina and Alocasia sanderiana.
Common plants such as caladiums, rubber trees and ferns are selling in legal nurseries for 35 percent to 40 percent more than before the pandemic, said Win Marcella, a hobbyist who is spending more time tending his garden.
A mature Monstera deliciosa, or swiss cheese plant, now fetches at least 3,000 pesos (US$62), compared with as little as 800 pesos before.
Enthusiasts on social media say demand for the rare white-leafed subspecies deliciosa albo is so high that they are valued at 7,000 pesos per leaf.
Even as the government begins easing a lockdown that was reimposed in Manila last month after a spike in new COVID-19 cases, green fever has prompted some entrepreneurs to switch to or add horticulture after their existing businesses fell victim to the effects of the virus.
Marvin Braceros, the chef behind Philippine restaurant Yum in Milan, Italy, had to close his fine-dining outlet in a Manila mall earlier this year as his customers vanished.
In a small space offered him by the mall landlord to help recover some of his losses he began selling house plants. Now he has stalls in two malls and plans to open seven more by next month.
“I was surprised with the response,” Braceros said. “I think it’s driven by the need for positive vibes and a stress reliever. I don’t think this is just a fad. People are more conscious of healthy living.”
The desire to have something living to care for in an apartment has boosted sales of house plants in other cities facing lockdowns.
Even before the pandemic there had been a growing trend among millennials to raise “plant babies” in cities such as New York and London, but the demand in Manila for greenery is especially striking.
One of the most densely populated cities in the world, it is also one of the largest, with an estimated 23 million people sandwiched between the mountains and Manila Bay.
The need for nature is helping established plant wholesalers like Bulacan Garden Corp survive a drop in business from their traditional customers that landscape new developments or supply hotels and offices.
While sales to bulk buyers have more than halved, a daily stream of individuals who buy three to five pieces each has kept Bulacan Garden’s two Manila shops busy, store manager Ricky Santiago said.
“Many people have nowhere to go and nothing to do during the lockdown so they raise plants to fill the time,” Santiago said. “Retail buyers are not replacing the volume lost from bulk orders, but they are helping us and many others stay in survival mode.”
Jeffrey Cabida, who helps run a backyard nursery 85km south of the capital, says most of its sales now come from Manila with orders up eight-fold from a year ago.
“So many are buying that some plants run out of stock,” he said. “We’re surprised at the increase.”
On the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: Fill up a thermos with whiskey, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink liters of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time, and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone. “Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” one commenter wrote. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.” Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching
‘STUNNED’: With help from an official at the US Department of Justice, Donald Trump reportedly planned to oust the acting attorney general in a bid to overturn the election Former US president Donald Trump was at his Florida resort on Saturday, beginning post-presidency life while US President Joe Biden settled into the White House, but in Washington and beyond, the chaos of the 45th president’s final days in office continued to throw out damaging aftershocks. In yet another earth-shaking report, the New York Times said that Trump plotted with an official at the US Department of Justice to fire the acting attorney general, then force Georgia Republicans to overturn his defeat in that state. Meanwhile, former acting US secretary of defense Christopher Miller made an extraordinary admission, telling Vanity Fair that
The Palauan president-elect has vowed to stand up to Chinese “bullying” in the Pacific, saying that the archipelago nation is set to stand by its alliances with “true friends,” Taiwan and the US. Surangel Whipps Jr, 52, a supermarket owner and two-time senator from a prominent Palauan family, is to be sworn in as the new president tomorrow, succeeding his brother-in-law, Tommy Remengesau Jr. In a forthright interview, Whipps said that the US had demonstrated over the years that it was a reliable friend of Palau, most recently shown by its delivery of 6,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. “It’s important for
DELIVERING HOPE: The Japanese PM pledged to push ahead with plans to stage the Games, despite polls showing about 80% think they will not or should not happen Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday vowed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympic Games this summer with ample protection. In a speech opening a new session of parliament, Suga said that his government would revise laws to make disease prevention measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its caseload manageable with nonbinding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing, and for people to stay at home, but recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes