TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Eastern Visayas (DENR-8) is heightening its watch against poaching of wild plants as more people are allowed to access eco-tourism sites due to more relaxed movement restrictions.
Although the indoor gardening fever has slowed down this year compared to last year, the collection of wild plants is still rampant in many parts of Eastern Visayas, said Gimelina Parnis, zoology technician of the DENR-8 conservation and development division in an interview Thursday.
“It’s really prohibited to collect plants from the wild. Violators will be penalized as stated in the Wildlife Act. The penalty depends not only on the act committed but also on the conservation status of the wildlife,” Parnis said.
For hunting and trading, the penalty ranges from two to four years of imprisonment and/or fine of PHP30,000 to PHP300,000 for hunting and PHP5,000 to PHP300,000 for the trading of wildlife. For the mere transport of wildlife, the penalty is six months to one year imprisonment and/or PHP50,000 to PHP100,000 fine.
The DENR asked its officials assigned in protected areas to step up their enforcement of the law securing wildlife.
The increasing number of visitors to eco-tourism sites due to the lifting of enhanced and general community quarantine in the region may encourage villagers to poach wild plants as an alternative source of income and have them sold to interested visitors.
“There will be no balance in our ecosystem if people will take these wild plants from their natural habitat,” she added.
The Wildlife Act has listed at least 984 wild plants classified as "critically endangered, endangered and threatened".
The DENR is still surveying how many of these species are found in the region’s forest.
Meryln Barte, protected area superintendents of Lake Danao Natural Park in Ormoc City, said they have deployed more personnel to monitor activities within the 2,244-hectare protected area. The management also sought support from the people’s organization.
“All visitors are oriented that they are prohibited to cut, collect, and gather wild plants from the protected area. We have been helping villagers to find alternative livelihood so they would not engage in trading wild plants,” Barte said in a separate interview.
Since the park’s reopening on July 1, they have been receiving an average of 200 visitors daily.
DENR also asked the public to report incidents of poaching and illegal commercialization of wild plants and animals.
The region has seven protected areas. These are the Samar Island Natural Park in Samar, Biri Larosa Protected Seascape and Landscape in Northern Samar, Calbayog Pan-as Hayiban Protected Landscape in Samar, Guaian Marine Resource Protected Landscape and Seascape in Eastern Samar, Mahagnao Volcanic Natural Park in Leyte, Cuatro Islas Protected Landscape and Seascape, and Lake Danao Natural Park, both in Leyte. (PNA)