Tuesday, February 28, 2006

POS and PHS launch Flora Filipina Expo

By Diana Uy, Manila Standard

The Philippine Orchid Society (POS) and Philippine Horticultural Society (PHS), in time for their 60th and 30th anniversaries respectively, is staging its first Flora Filipina Expo until March 5, at Clamshell 1 in Intramuros.

In a bid to boost the morale of the horticultural industry, the two societies, with the blessings of the Department of Tourism, has decided to unite for a festival of ornamental plants showcasing the very best of the Philippines in the horticultural arena.

“The Flora Filipina Expo is envisioned to be a major Philippine tourism event that will create awareness among horticulture enthusiasts from all over the world and invite them to visit our islands and see our wide collection of plant and flower species,” says Department of Tourism Secretary Ace Durano in a press statement.

Through the expo, the first-ever collaboration between POS and PHS, DoT hopes to place the Philippines on the map of floriculture tourism.

With support from the private sectors, government and the locales, the expo aims to follow suit with the Floriade and Chelsea shows of Europe; TPIE of Florida; Tokyo Orchid Grand Prix and Okinawa Plant Shows of Japan, and the annual and garden shows of Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.

According to studies, the total world consumption of ornamental plants, including cutflowers, is $73 billion.

The world export of ornamental plants, and flowers for this year is expected to reach $10 billion. And among the major suppliers include Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The Philippines supplies only 0.02 percent of the demand for ornamental plants. Worse, the Philippines is a net importer of ornamental plants and flowers.

The Philippines can actually compete when it comes to rare species and variety of ornamental plants, according to Kelvin Manlubay.

“Philippines has a wealth of plants to offer the world,” says Manlubay, “We have the highest demand when it comes to potted ornamental and foliage trade.”

Some of the rare species that can actually be found in the country include the waling-waling (vanda sanderiana), which is the “Queen of the Philippine Orchids,” vanda luzonica (it’s original habitat in Zambales was destroyed during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo), and black orchid (trichoglottis brachiata).

Currently there are 27,000 species of ornamental plants and still growing.

“We’ve been importing a lot of ornamental plants before but now we can export because we are now producing a lot of new hybrids from the plants we have acquired before such as euphorbias, hibiscus, aglaonema, alucasia, etc.,” stresses Manlubay.

Once the expo is in full bloom, it is expected to have a domino effect in the Philippine economy such as a boost in the foreign exchange, livelihood for people or more job opportunities, among others.

Examples of these countries that are investing on the industry and are earning billions of dollars include Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan and China, who practically rebuilt the entire city of Kunming to launch its floriculture industry.

Among the many reasons that it took this long for the country to embark on a big event such as this is the misguided view and also the lack of interest for some Filipinos.

“People seem to think that horticulture is only for the elite few,” observes self-confessed orchids and ornamental lover and POS board of director/adviser, Atty. Hernando Perez, “When in fact in many countries it’s creating jobs...”

Enthusiasts themselves have a problem sustaining the hobby.

“Most of us stay not for the profit but for the flowers and plants,” Perez emphasizes.

Through the expo and with the DOT behind it, POS and PHS expect to attract more foreigners and tourists alike not only to the plants but also to the people and culture of this country.

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