The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called on the public, especially those in Metro Manila, to adopt vertical gardening techniques to increase green spaces in the metropolis.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that "we can derive so much benefit from these green spaces, which include green walls, green roofs, vertical gardens, urban forest parks, linear forest along walk ways, transport routes and river systems.”

“These networks of green spaces improve air quality, reduce heat, increase energy efficiency, reduce noise pollution, and provide habitats for wildlife," Cimatu said.

Having vertical gardens not only protects biodiversity and increases green spaces, but also improves public health, he added.

"It will help relieve stress of average Filipinos by enhancing the aesthetics of their surroundings, especially during this time of health crisis," Cimatu said.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny D. Antiporda said there are still green spaces existing in Metro Manila, including the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) where the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) is located, University of the Philippines-Diliman, and Ateneo de Manila University all in Quezon City, the Arroceros Forest Park in Manila, and the Las Piñas–Parañaque Wetland Park.

To increase green spaces and enhance biodiversity in urban areas, the DENR-BMB has been promoting the Urban Biodiversity Program among local governments which includes Urban Forest Bathing and the promotion of green infrastructures.

Urban Forest Bathing helps promote the health benefits of forests and green spaces while green infrastructures are buildings or infrastructures that support green energy and provide environmental benefits.

By advocating Urban Biodiversity, nature becomes closer to urban dwellers.

"We can only do so much based on our existing laws in preserving the green spaces in Metro Manila, but even an ordinary citizen can help in this endeavor. Kahit maliit lupa niyo—backyard lang—eh malaki na rin pong tulong iyan," Antiporda said.

He pointed out that "the trend of plantitos and plantitas has helped a lot to reverse the impacts of the fast infrastructure development in the National Capital Region (NCR)."

However, Antiporda noted that while the trend is helpful, the demand for ornamental plants also "invited the unwanted proliferation of plant poachers."

"The DENR, through the BMB, is doing its best to catch these poachers because what they are doing is against Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001," he said.

Plant hobbyists should not patronize illegally traded plants, especially non-native plants "because of their possible adverse impacts to the environment that may result in bringing pests and diseases that may infect other species of plants," he warned.

Antiporda said the department is "committed to augment the green spaces in the NCR in the best ways that it can and to promote the use of native species"

He pointed out that development plans in urban areas that would involve the cutting of trees should strictly comply with the DENR's tree-cutting policy.

"The DENR mandates that for every tree cut in urban areas, 50 to 100 replacement trees should be planted in areas outside NCR," he said.

"We encourage everyone to join us in our mission to protect the environment. Magtulong-tulong po tayo. Hindi lang po para sa henerasyon na ito kundi para sa mga susunod pang henerasyon," he added. ###