FFE Magazine

Philippine Population Density

One of the reasons why beaches in the Philippines are popular among foreigners is because of their untouched beauty. Thousands of islands in the country are uninhabited and a trip to the countryside will also reveal that some of the provinces are sparsely inhabited. In fact some of the people that chose to live in the mountain regions are kilometers away from their nearest neighbor.



Come to the city however and you can see the place is overrun by people. Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan, and Davao City are four of the cities that have more than one million residents. Comparing the provinces, the most extreme case of unequal population distribution is between Batanes with 16,604 inhabitants and Cavite with a massive 3,090,691 population.



A number of areas in the Philippines are still underdeveloped with no electricity, proper roads, schools, and job opportunities, among others. It is not very shocking that a third to a half of the population of a province is concentrated in its capital city where most of the commodities are in. In some extreme cases, the capital city has more population than the rest of the province.



In the 2010 census conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), almost 92 million people are living in the Philippines.  This put us in the 12th place of being the most populated country in the world, but why are there islands with still no people in them? Let’s check out the country’s 17 regions and their provinces.


National Capital Region

Crowded street in Quiapo, Manila

Also known as Metro Manila, the National Capital Region (NCR) is the economic hub of the Philippines. Most people flock the region because of job opportunities. Some of the best universities are also found in NCR and students from the provinces come here to study.



According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), poverty in NCR is only 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Around 11 percent (11.8 million) of the total population of 92.3 million is concentrated in a small area of 638.5 sq. km. of NCR with a population density of 18,567/sq. km.


Its cities and town include Las Pinas City (552,573), Makati City (529,039), Malabon City (353,337), Mandaluyong City (328,699), Manila City (1.6 million), Marikina City  (424,150), Muntinlupa City (459,941), Navotas City (249,131), Paranaque City (588,126), Pasig City (669,773), San Juan City (121,430), Valenzuela City (575,356), Caloocan City (1.4 million), Pasay City (392, 869), Pateros (64, 147), Quezon City (2.7 million), and Taguig City (467, 375).


Cordillera Administrative Region

Residential area in Baguio City


The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) has the least residence with a population density of only 84/sq. km. One of the reasons is its provinces are sitting mostly in the Cordillera mountain range of Luzon. The region’s landscape is characterized with rugged mountain ranges, forests, deep gorges and ravines and wide pasturelands. Although CAR is successful with its tourism, agriculture, and endowed with rich natural resources, the terrain where these provinces are located is a reason why not a lot of people choose to live here.



Abra has a population of 234, 733, Apayao with 112, 636, Benguet with 403, 944, Baguio City, the only highly urbanized place in the region, has 318,676 residents, Ifugao has 191,078, Kalinga with 201,613, and the Mountain Province with 154,187.



 Region I- Ilocos Region

Also known as the Ilocos Region, Region I is in the northwest coast of Luzon. Region I consists of four provinces namely Ilocos Norte (568,017), Ilocos Sur (658,587), La Union (741,906), and Pangasinan (2.7 million) and has a total population of 4.7 million in a 13,055 sq. km. area; its population density is 360/sq. km. The Ilocos provinces’ incomes mostly come from agriculture and raising livestock. La Union is known for manufacturing furniture and other hand-made items. Based on the government’s revenue earnings, Pangasinan has the most economic activities and also has the largest population in the region.



 Region II- Cagayan Valley

Region II is the second largest region in the Philippines with a total area of 31,159 sq. km. and composed of five provinces: Batanes (16,604), Cagayan (1.1 million), Isabela (1.4 million), Nueva Vizcaya (421,355), and Quirino (176,786); Cagayan Valley has population density of 100/sq. km.

Isabela, the largest province when it comes to size and population, is also the richest province in Region II because of its high productivity in agriculture, especially in corn. The agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors make up 31 percent of the regional economy.



Region III- Central Luzon

Angeles City, Pampanga


Central Luzon contains the largest plain in the country and produces most of the country’s rice supply, with farming as the source of income by most of the people. In 2011, it accounted for 9.33% of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and recorded a 15.6 percent poverty incidence in 2012; relatively low compared to other regions.



Central Luzon is the third most populated region in the Philippines; the more than 10 million people in the region’s 21,543 sq. km. are scattered in the provinces of Aurora (201,233), Bataan (687,482), Bulacan (2.9 million), Nueva Ecija (1.9 million), Pampanga (2 million, excluding Angeles City), Angeles City (326,336), Tarlac (1.06 million), Zambales (534,443, excluding Olongapo City), and Olongapo City (221,178). There are 14 cities in the region and has a population density of 470/sq. km.




CALABARZON is the combined acronym of the five provinces in Region IV-A namely Cavite (3.9 million), Laguna (2.6 million), Batangas (2.3 million), Rizal (2.4 million), Quezon (1.7 million, excluding Lucena City), and Lucena City (246,392). Region IV- A is the most populated region and contains 17 cities, 12 of them first class. Its total population of 12.6 million resides in a 6,319 sq. km. with a population density of 770/sq. km.



Due to its close proximity to Metro Manila, urbanization has taken place in the region over the years; Lucena in Quezon and Antipolo in Rizal are both considered highly urbanized cities. The region also accounts for 17 percent of the national GDP, the second largest contributor next to NCR.




Despite its large area of 29,621 sq. km., Region IV-B that consists of Marinduque (227,828), Occidental Mindoro (452,971), Oriental Mindoro (785,602), Palawan (771,667, excluding Puerto Princesa City), Puerto Princesa City (222,673) and Romblon (283,930), only has 2.7 million total population; the third least populated region in the Philippines and has a population density of 93/sq.km. Aside from the regional capital Puerto Princesa, Calapan in Mindoro is the only other city in MIMAROPA.



Region IV-B saw an economy surge by 9.4 percent in 2007 but still has a 37.2 percent poverty incidence as of 2012. The agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors contribute to almost half of the region’s total economy.



Region V- Bicol Region



Mayon Volcano in Albay


Bicol Region has population of 5.4 million that resides in 18,054 sq. km with a population density of 300/sq. km. Its provinces include Albay (1.2 million), Camarines Norte (542,915), Camarines Sur (1.8 million), Catanduanes (246,300), Masbate (834,650), and Sorsogon (740,743).


The agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors made up 25.63 percent of the region’s economy in 2011.



Camarines Sur is the most populated in Bicolandia. Naga city is the biggest city of Camarines sure and is the center of economic activity of the region with its steadily increasing commercial activity. Products from the rest of the provinces in the region are brought here for trading, many schools and reputable universities are in the city as well, serving as a magnet for more people to relocate to this city.



The three cities in the province of Albay, one of which is the regional capital Legazpi City, also accounts for the province’s more than one million population.



Region VI- Western Visayas

Western Visayas is where the famous Boracay Island is situated. This region consists of six provinces: Aklan (535,725), Antique (546,031), Capiz (719,685), Guimaras (162,943), Iloilo (1.8 million, excluding Iloilo City) Iloilo City (424,619), Negros Occidental (2.3 million, excluding Bacolod City), and Bacolod City (511,820). Negros Occidental alone has 13 cities. It is the province with the most chartered cities. It is also considered the “Sugar Bowl of the Philippines”, producing more than half of the country’s sugar output.



The total population of Western Visayas is 7.1 million, the fourth most populated region in the country, with a population density of 340/sq km. The forestry, fishery, and agriculture sectors account for more than a quarter of the region’s economy.



Region VII- Central Visayas

Cebu City at night


The fifth most populous region in the country with 6.8 million people in a land area of 15,875 sq. km., Central Visayas consists of four provinces namely Cebu (2.6 million, excluding Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City), Cebu City, (866,171), Lapu-lapu City (350,467), Mandaue City (331,320), Bohol (1.1 million), Negros Oriental (1.2 million), and Siquijor (81,598). The region has a population density of 430/sq. km. and has 16 cities.



Cebu’s population is due to the presence of Metropolitan Cebu that consists of seven cities and six municipalities, and is considered the centre of the whole Visayas. Cebu is the fourth most populated province in the country; Siquijor on the other hand is the third least populated province.



Region VIII- Eastern Visayas

The provinces that make up Region VIII are Biliran (161,760), Eastern Samar (428,877), Leyte (1.5 million, excluding Tacloban City), Tacloban City (221,174), Northern Samar (589,013), Western Samar (733,377) and Southern Leyte (399,137). Eastern Visayas’ area of 21,562 sq. km. has a total population of 4.1 million, with a population density of 190/sq. km. The province of Leyte occupies three quarters of the Leyte Island and is the 14th largest province, 15th most populated province, but is 32nd when it comes to density rank.



There are six cities in the region with Tacloban as the highly urbanized city. In 2012, Region VIII was the second most poverty- stricken region in the country; 45.4 percent of the population was reported to be in the poverty line.



Region IX- Zamboanga Peninsula

Also known as the Zamboanga Peninsula, Region IX, located in the Northwestern part of Mindanao, consists of three provinces and six cities, including the City of Isabela (97,857). Zamboanga del Norte (957,997), Zamboanga del Sur (959,685, excluding Zamboanga City), Zamboanga City (807,129) and Zamboanga Sibugay (584,685) completes the Zamboanga Peninsula.



The region’s total population of 3.4 million and total area of 16,823 sq. km. makes its population density at 200/sq. km. Zamboanga City, is the only highly urbanized city in the region with almost half the total population of Zamboanga del Sur.

In 2011, the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors accounted for 27.66 percent of the region’s economy.



Region X- Northern Mindanao

Iligan City

There are five provinces in Region X that occupies the north-central part of the Mindanao Island namely Bukidnon (1.2 million), Camiguin (83,807), Lanao del Norte (607,917, excluding Iligan City), Iligan City (322,821), Misamis Occidental (486,723), Misamis Oriental (813,856, excluding Cagayan de Oro City), and Cagayan the Oro City (602,088). The region of Northern Mindanao has five cities with Iligan and Cagayan de Oro classified as highly urbanized.  The total population of Northern Mindanao is 4.2 million in an area of 20,132 sq. km. with a population density of 210/sq. km.



Bukidnon is the 21st most populated province but is only 63rd when it comes to population density. Camiguin on the other hand is the second least populated next to Batanes, but is 14th when it comes to population density.



Region XI- Davao Region

The Davao Region, is located in the southeastern portion of Mindanao and consists of Compostela Valley (687,195), Davao del Norte (945,764), Davao Oriental (517,618), Davao del Sur (868,690, excluding Davao City), and Davao City (1.4 million). It has a total of 4.4 million residents in a total area of 20,132 sq. km and a population density of 210/sq. km. It is the 9th most populous region in the Philippines.



Davao City is the regional capital and the only city with more than one million residents outside Metro Manila; it has also almost two times residents than Davao del Sur, the province it is in. It is also the center of Metro Davao, the third most populous metropolis in the country.




General Santos City


Region XII in Central Mindanao has four provinces and five cities. Cotabato (1.2 million), Cotabato City (271,786), Sarangani (498,904), South Cotabato (827,200, excluding General Santos City), General Santos City (538,086), and Sultan Kudarat (747,087) are the main divisions of the region.


SOCCSSKSARGEN, named after the initials of four of its provinces and one city, has a total population of 4.1 million but a population density of only 180/sq. km.


The region is rich in natural resources and serves as the main source of hydroelectric power for the whole Mindanao. Thirty percent of its economy comes from the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors.



 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao


The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the fourth least populated region in the country and the only region with its own government.


There are a total of 3.2 million people in ARMM and has a total area of 26,974 sq. km. with a total density of only 120/ sq. km.


It has provinces five provinces: Basilan (293,322, excluding Isabela City), Lanao del Sur (933,260), Maguindanao (944,718, excluding Cotabato City), Sulu (718,290) and Tawi- Tawi (366,550), and has only two cities: Cotabato City and Marawi City. Although Cotabato City is the capital of Maguindanao and the regional capital, it is outside ARMM’s jurisdiction.


ARMM contributed to the country’s GDP by only .76 percent last 2011 and is considered the region with the most people in the poverty line (52.9 percent).




Butuan City, Agusan del Norte


CARAGA, the second least populated region, is situated in the northeastern portion of the island of Mindanao. Its provinces include Agusan del Norte (332, 487, excluding Butuan City), Butuan City (309,709), Agusan del Sur (656,418), Dinagat Islands (126, 803), Surigao del Norte (442, 588), and Surigao del Sur (561, 219). It has a total area of 21, 471 sq. km. and a total population of 2.4 million with a population density of 110/sq. km.



CARAGA has a poverty incidence of 42 percent in 2012 and constitute to the GDP by 1.16 percent last 2011.



NCR is the most densely populated region in the country because of more chances of landing a job, the presence of higher education institutions, and better living conditions in general.



In the regional scale, this trend also transpires for example between Davao City and Davao del Sur.



This phenomenon of mass migration of the population to the capital is not a monopoly of the Philippines, other countries experience it too. Governments around the world, both the developed and developing states are all confronted with this trend. Therefore, they continually come up with solutions to counter the movement and concentration of the population to the capital. Governments create projects to develop the countryside to provide employment opportunities in other regions.



Terrains however like the Cordillera Region’s makes it challenging to build infrastructures to offer employment and promote economic activity, thus it is understandable that people from that region are always tempted to look at other places to move to. Some countries are more successful in their efforts to revert the movement of the people, however many are still battling this migration trend.





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