Cherry blossom trees are well-known for their beauty, admired worldwide, such that the trees themselves attract tourists who come to Japan to enjoy a view of the tree flowers in full bloom. But if we plant them in the Philippines, we may cause adverse effects on our ecological system and biodiversity.
As an “exotic tree”, the cherry blossom trees may not have yet adapted to unique Philippine conditions, like weather or climate, biodiversity, local wildlife, and soil.
Unfortunately, there has been a flurry of planting exotic trees merely because these trees have been getting media exposure or are fast-growing. Local factors or the need for the right tree nurturing and care are neglected.
An example is in Bohol, where exotic mahogany trees were planted in Bilar. But this so-called “man-made forest” is unnaturally quiet, with little or no biodiversity. Tourists come and go, and have no other reason to stay and explore the place.
Cherry blossom trees may potentially become invasive, and as such they can halt the ecological process in Benguet . They may not survive long, and if they do, they may not attract birds, insects, and other wildlife in the manner that our native trees attract these–all of which would add to the splendour and wonder of our forests, that make bird watching tours a worthy tourist visit.
More so, these cherry blossom trees may replace native tree resulting to monoculture. Diseases and pests invade areas planted with exotic trees , eventually damaging biodiversity, leading to nutrient imbalances in the soil and plants.
Planting these trees merely for their popularity, may not be sustainable. The trees may not grow well as in Japan, needing more maintenance (fertilizer, insecticide, etc.) to keep them healthy.
Laws on wildlife must also be considered. The Wildlife Act (RA 9147) provides that no species shall be introduced without official clearance , and any such shall need environmental impact study…”
Continuing the mindset of planting exotic trees for short-term gain will simply contribute to further degradation of our environment as well as diminishing of our local pride.
Native trees are more adaptable than exotic trees. Hence, they have greater chance of survival and capacity to sustain life around them.
There are beautiful flowering native trees in the Philippines that the world has yet to discover. These trees can bring economic and ecological benefit to local Benguet communities, or any community that desires to attract tourists with the proliferation of trees.
(Albert Balbutin Jr. is Haribon Foundation’s Graphic Designer. He’s been designing professionally for 10 years.
Cathlyn Tolentino is a 3rd year Communication Arts student in St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City and is currently an intern in Haribon.
Learn more about planting native trees, or support the application of reforesting areas with native trees or “rainforestation” by adopting native tree seedlings or joining tree planting activities this July through November. The public is also called to participate in #nativetreecity by tagging native trees in their schools, offices, or neighborhoods. For more information call +63 (2) 421-1209, visit haribon.org.ph, and/or email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.