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Cotabato, officially the Province of Cotabato and formerly known as North Cotabato (Hiligaynon: Aminhan Cotabato; Cebuano: Amihanang Cotabato; Maguindanaon: Pangutaran Kutawatu; Ilocano: Amianan nga Cotabato; Filipino: Hilagang Cotabato), is a landlocked province in the Philippines located in the Soccsksargen region in Mindanao. Its capital is the city of Kidapawan. Some of its barangays are under the jurisdiction of the nearby Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.


Early history

Limestone burial urns with myth-inspired patterns from Cotabato dating back 600 CE.

Cotabato derives its name from the Maguindanao word kuta wato (from Malay - "Kota Batu"), meaning "stone fort", referring to the stone fort which served as the seat of Sultan Muhammad Kudarat in what is now Cotabato City (which the province derives its name from).

Islam was introduced in this part of the country in the later part of the 15th century by Sharif Mohammed Kabungsuwan, an Arabo-Malay Muslim warrior-missionary. Sharif Kabungsuwan invaded Malabang in 1475, facing armed resistance from the non-Muslim natives, nevertheless successfully vanquishing and subjugating them to his (Islamic) rule through the might of his Samal warriors.[1]

Modern historians have pointed to the Cotabato delta as the medieval location of Toupo, the successor of the Maguindanao/Cotabato Sultanate.[2]

Spanish occupation

Christianity was introduced in 1596, but the Spaniards were unable to penetrate into the region until the second half of the 19th century. The district of Cotabato was formed in 1860,[3] covering the areas of what is now Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces with its capital at Tamontaka. Fort Pikit was established by the Spaniards in 1893 as they continued their conquest of the remnants of Maguindanao Sultanate, which would soon be the site of one of the province's oldest towns, Pikit.

American occupation

The coming of the Americans ushered in the creation of the Moro Province on July 15, 1903, through Act No. 787 of the Philippine Commission. Cotabato, covering what are now the provinces of Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Sarangani, became a district of the huge Moro province. During the American period, large companies were established in Cotabato to exploit the vast timber resources of the region. By the 1930s, settlers from Luzon and Visayas established homesteads in Cotabato.

World War II

In December 1941, Japanese planes bombed and invaded Cotabato. In 1942, Cotabato was occupied by the Japanese Imperial forces. A military headquarters of the Philippine Commonwealth Army existed in Cotabato from January 3, 1942 to June 30, 1946 and the Philippine Constabulary 10th Constabulary Regiment was stationed in Cotobato from October 28, 1944 to June 30, 1946. Moro guerrilla fighters operating in the province of Cotabato helped local forces of the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the Philippine Constabulary 10th Constabulary Regiment fight against the Imperial Japanese Army until 1944. The Moro guerrillas fought the Japanese troops until liberation. In 1945, Cotabato was recaptured from the Japanese Imperial forces by the combined Filipino and American troops together with the recognized Moro guerrilla units. The guerrillas used the traditional Moro Kampilan, Barong and Kris swords as their weapons.

Postwar era

The pace of settlement in the region accelerated in the 1950s and 1960s. The former province of Cotabato was once the largest in the Philippines. In 1966, South Cotabato was created as a separate province.[4]

Mindanao, including Cotabato, was relatively peaceful in the 1950s and the mid-1960s. While there were some ethnic tensions, there was essentially no presence of secessionists groups in Mindanao yet.[5]

Martial law era

The relative peace of the postwar era began to change in the last years of President Ferdinand Marcos' first term, when news about the Jabidah massacre ignited a furor in the Moro community, and ethnic tensions encouraged with the formation of secessionist movements.[6] None of these groups had enough followers to form a viable opposition until Marcos declared Martial Law,[7] but when political parties were dissolved upon the proclamation of Martial Law in September 1972, it became easy for the armed secessionist group known as the Moro National Liberation Front to consolidate power, and the decades-long Moro conflict began in earnest.[8]

One major event of Martial law which took place in Cotabato was the Manili massacre, which saw the mass murder of 70[9] to 79[10] Moros, including women and children, committed in a mosque in Manili, Carmen, North Cotabato, Philippines on June 19, 1971.[11] The Muslim residents of the town had gathered in their mosque to participate in a supposed peace talk with Christian groups when a group of armed men suspected to be part of the Ilaga militant group[9] opened fire on them.[11]

On November 22, 1973, through Presidential Decree No. 341, what remained of the old Cotabato was further divided into the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat.[12] North Cotabato was later renamed Cotabato through Batas Pambansa Blg. 660 approved on March 7, 1984.[13]

Recent history

In 1992, the province of Sarangani was formed out of South Cotabato.[14]

Cotabato now comprises the capital city of Kidapawan and 17 municipalities.

By the aftermath of the plebiscite to form the autonomous administrative region of Bangsamoro in February 2019, 63 barangays from Cotabato's western municipalities, all of which inhabited mostly by Muslim natives, opted to join the newly-formed region.[15] This will result in the reduction of the number of barangays the province currently administers after the national midterm elections on 13 May 2019.[16]


Cotabato covers a total area of 9,008.90 square kilometres (3,478.36 sq mi) occupying the northeastern tip of Region XII and is centrally located in Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, on the east by Davao City and Davao del Norte, on the west by Maguindanao and on the southeast by Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

Cotabato is strategically linked to the major "Arterial Road System" that traverses and connects the province to Davao City - Soccsksargen - Cotabato Corridor. The Cotabato via Kabacan - Maramag - Kibawe, Bukidnon Sayre Highway meanwhile serves as its link to the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan City Corridor.

Cotabato stretches from the east at Mount Apo, which separates it from Davao, to the Piapayungan Range on its boundary with Lanao in the west.[17] Between these highlands is the basin of the Pulangi River or Rio Grande de Mindanao,[17] the second longest in the Philippines at 373 kilometres (232 mi), which rises in Bukidnon and flows south to Maguindanao and Illana Bay. The province's fertile plains are traversed by tributaries of this great river.

Typhoons do not pass through Cotabato and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year.[17]

Administrative divisions

Cotabato comprises 17 municipalities and one city.

City or municipality District Area Density Barangays Coordinates
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Alamada 1st 787.50 304.06 82 210 17 7°23′24″N 124°32′59″E
Aleosan 1st 225.44 87.04 170 440 19 7°09′08″N 124°34′53″E
Antipas 2nd 552.50 213.32 46 120 13 7°14′42″N 125°03′14″E
Arakan 2nd 693.22 267.65 70 180 28 7°21′05″N 125°07′34″E
Banisilan 3rd 577.22 222.87 76 200 20 7°30′21″N 124°41′41″E
Carmen 3rd 1,110.43 428.74 86 220 28 7°12′16″N 124°47′43″E
Kabacan 3rd 448.09 173.01 200 520 24 7°07′00″N 124°49′00″E
Kidapawan 2nd 358.47 138.41 390 1,000 40 7°00′30″N 125°05′30″E
Libungan 1st 172.50 66.60 280 730 20 7°14′25″N 124°31′11″E
M'lang 3rd 312.13 120.51 300 780 37 6°56′47″N 124°52′42″E
Magpet 2nd 755.36 291.65 65 170 32 7°06′08″N 125°07′28″E
Makilala 2nd 343.57 132.65 240 620 38 6°57′41″N 125°05′09″E
Matalam 3rd 476.00 183.78 170 440 34 7°05′55″N 124°53′59″E
Midsayap 1st 290.42 112.13 520 1,300 57 7°11′21″N 124°32′06″E
Pigcawayan 1st 340.11 131.32 200 520 40 7°16′45″N 124°25′27″E
Pikit 1st 604.61 233.44 260 670 42 7°03′13″N 124°40′20″E
President Roxas 2nd 618.25 238.71 77 200 25 7°09′15″N 125°03′19″E
Tulunan 3rd 343.08 132.46 160 410 29 6°49′50″N 124°52′22″E
Total 9,008.90 3,478.36 150 390 543

Future reduction due to the establishment of the Bangsamoro

During the 2001 Referendum for inclusion to the Autonomous Region in Muslin Mindanao, 2 out of 28 barangays of Carmen, Cotabato chose to be part of ARMM, but were excluded because they are not connected to the main region of ARMM. During 2010-2016 Administration, the Bangsamoro ideal sprouted and a newly proposed region was in the making. According to the agreements signed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Administration of Noynoy Aquino, Carmen will be included in Bangsamoro because of the two out of twenty-eight barangays that voted in favor of joining the Muslim region back in 2001. Unfortunately, Bangsamoro was not implemented before the term of Aquino ended. Despite this, the current administration aims to establish a Federal Government, where Bangamoro will be realized into a State of the Philippines wherein Carmen will be included in Bangsamoro.

Plans to establish a new municipality in the south of Carmen so that the indigenous and Christian central and northern part of Carmen will be retained in North Cotabato has yet to be confirmed. The idea arose because once the entire municipality of Carmen is included in Bangsamoro, the province of North Cotabato will be cut into half, leaving three towns (Banisilan, Alamada, and Libungan) at its west without connection to the center of North Cotabato, isolating these towns in the process.

The issue was partially resolved when the second part of the plebiscite was conducted on 6 February 2019, when 63 barangay from the towns of Pigkawayan, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan, Carmen, Banisilan and Pikit opted to join the new administrative autonomous region of Bangsamoro after the results of the region's formation plebiscite were confirmed three days later on 9 February.[15] However, these barangays are only to join the adjacent province of Maguindanao as parts of the said province's nearby and respective municipalities or to cluster on their own as new municipalities within the said province after the national midterm elections on 13 May 2019, and only then would the size and population of Cotabato province would truly diminish as the leaving barangays would no longer officially be parts of the province.[16]


Based on the 2015 census, Cotabato has an overall population of 1,379,747.  The average population growth rate was 2.27% in the period 2010–2015, which is higher than the national average of 1.72%. The province had a density of 150 inhabitants per square kilometre or 390 inhabitants per square mile.

Cotabato is an ethnoliguistically diverse province. The first Visayan settlers reached the town of Pikit in 1913, and since then, Christian migrants have moved and lived in Cotabato, cohabitating the province with the local indigenous groups. 71% of Cotabato's population descended from settlers who migrated from the Visayas and Luzon, while the remaining 18% belong to the communities of Magindanaons, Iranuns, Ilianens, Dulangan Manobo, Obo, Tagabawa, and Tboli. The major languages spoken are Hiligaynon (46%), Maguindanao (38%), Cebuano (8%), and Ilocano (4%).[17]


Cotabato's population is majority Christian. According to the 2010 census,[18] 51.2% of the population are Roman Catholic.[19] Muslims form 26% of the population.[20] The other significant minorities are Evangelical Christians at 8.4% of the population and Iglesia Ni Cristo which forms 1.9% of the Province population.[21] In 2015 the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded Islam followed by 39.28% of the population.[22]


Cotabato is considered a major food basket in Mindanao. It is a top producer of cereals, tropical fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, coconut, coffee, freshwater fish and livestock.

It is also one of the country's leading producers of raw and semi-processed rubber and industrial trees,[23] with markets in Asia and Europe.

Among its major natural assets are Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak at Template:Convert above sea level, the Pulangi River which is a major contributor to Mindanao's irrigation system and hydro-electric energy, and the vast Liguasan Marsh which not only supplies a bounty of freshwater fish and organic fertilizer but considered as a possible source as well of natural gas.

Power utility in the province comes from two energy sources - the NAPOCOR Agus Grid in Iligan transmitted through its Tacurong Substations and the Mindanao 1 Geothermal Power Plant at the foot of Mt. Apo in Ilomavis, Kidapawan City which produces 97 megawatts of electricity. Power distribution is handled by Cotabato Electric Cooperative, Inc. (COTELCO).

The province has a 4,131.32-kilometre (2,567.08 mi) road network connecting the major centers to each other and the outlying barangays, and communication linkage through NDD-IDD, fax, cellular phone and the internet is available.


President Benigno Aquino III signed the law dividing to new 3 legislative district of Cotabato on September 14, 2012. The representative shall continue to serve until next national election.[24]

Elected provincial officials

  • House of Representatives
  1. 1st District — Rep. Joel Sacdalan
  2. 2nd District — Rep. Rudy Caodagan
  3. 3rd District — Rep. Jose Pingping I. Tejada
  • Governor: Nancy Catamco
  • Vice Governor: Lala T.Mendoza


  1. (2004) "The Natural Setting and its People", Philippine History, First, Manila, Philippines: Rex Book Store, 52–53. ISBN 9712339343. 
  3. Our Province.
  4. Republic Act No. 4849 - An Act Creating the Province of South Cotabato (18 July 1966).
  5. Miclat, Gus (2002). "Our lives were never the same again", Turning rage into courage : Mindanao under martial law. MindaNews Publications, Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center. OCLC 644320116. 
  6. George, T. J. S. (1980). Revolt in Mindanao : the rise of Islam in Philippine politics. ISBN 0-19-580429-5. OCLC 6569089. 
  7. George, T. J. S. (1980). Revolt in Mindanao: The Rise of Islam in Philippine Politics. Oxford University Press, 130–134. 
  8. Yegar, Moshe (2002). Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand and Western Burma/Myanmar. Lexington Books, 267–268. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Mariveles, Julius D.. Mindanao: A memory of massacres.
  10. Arguillas, Carolyn O.. "De Lima: "Oooops, sorry, it's Ampatuan Massacre not Maguindanao Massacre", MindaNews, January 28, 2010. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Larousse, William (2001). A Local Church Living for Dialogue: Muslim-Christian Relations in Mindanao-Sulu, Philippines 1965–2000. Gregorian Biblical BookShop, 136. ISBN 8876528792. 
  12. Presidential Decree No. 341: Creating the Provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat. Philippine Laws, Statutes & Codes. Chan Robles Virtual Law Library (22 November 1973).
  13. Batas Pambansa Blg. 660 - An Act Changing the Name of the Province of North Cotabato to Cotabato. Philippine Laws, Statutes & Codes. Chan Robles Virtual Law Library (22 November 1973).
  14. Republic Act No. 7228 - An Act Creating the Province of Sarangani (16 March 1992).
  15. 15.0 15.1 CNN Philippines Staff. 63 North Cotabato villages complete new Bangsamoro region. CNN Philippines.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Carolyn O. Arguillas. Pikit's fate: 20 barangays remain with North Cotabato, 22 joining BARMM. MindaNews.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 (1995) "The Provinces; Cotabato", Fast Facts about Philippine Provinces, The 2000 Millenium, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines: Tahanan Books. ISBN 971-630-037-9. 
  19. Bueza, Michael. MAP: Catholicism in the Philippines.
  20. Bueza, Michael. MAP: Islam in the Philippines.
  21. Bueza, Michael. MAP: Iglesia ni Cristo in the Philippines.
  22. Philippine Statistics Authority (July 26, 2017). Muslim Population in Mindanao (based on POPCEN 2015.
  23. "NorthCot pushes rubber industry dev't", MindaNews, Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC), 22 August 2013. “North Cotabato is the country’s second largest rubber producer, next to Zamboanga Sibugay, with a rubber plantation area of at least 55,000 hectares.” 
  24. "Aquino signs law reapportioning Cotabato into 3 districts", Philippine Daily Inquirer, 15 September 2012.