The Philippines may be underutilizing its plant resources, including rare trees that have medicinal values, underscoring the need for protection and conservation amid climate change threats.
At the recently held Asean Conference on Medicinal Forest Trees in Pampanga, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) said the country has yet to maximize the economic benefits of medicinal plants despite their huge potential for health and wellness.
The event gathered some 117 participants from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan who took part in the three-day conference.
According to ERDB Director Maria Lourdes G. Ferrer, forest species studies reveal interconnected relationships between nature and human health used by indigenous people worldwide for disease treatment.
Ferrer added there is a need to gather and preserve indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants and medicinal forest trees given their benefits and potential for economic activity.
“As we embark on this intellectual journey, let us remember that our discoveries have the potential to touch lives, alleviate suffering, and shape the course of healthcare and medicinal forest tree species conservation,” said Ferrer.
For his part, ERDB Assistant Director Conrado B. Marquez said habitat protection through active management of forests, and governance with the appropriate funding allocation are vital for medicinal forest trees to adapt and become resilient to climate change.
Marquez said the ERDB is mandated to develop protocols on propagation and plantation development and management.
“We are working now on a technology called tree fortification. We are trying to fortify trees in a manner that will make them more resilient to pests and to add to the viability and manageability of particular tree species,” said Marquez.
The objective of tree fortification is to protect threatened tree species and increase their population.
The ERDB is also doing other vegetative propagation measures such as cloning to address the scarcity of species.
Dr. Pastor Malabrigo, Jr., professor at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños said that based on the database of medicinal species in the country, 456 tree species have known medicinal value.
“We have 3,500 tree species. It’s safe to assume that we are underutilizing our plant resources. There are rare, threatened species, the public is not familiar with, which are not being used. We have to give attention to these,” said Malabrigo.
He encouraged the event poster presenters to publish their research on medicinal plants for people to recognize these and raise public awareness.