Cotabato, formerly North Cotabato, is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in the SOCCSKSARGEN region in Mindanao. Its capital is Kidapawan City and borders Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon to the north, Davao del Sur and Davao City, Sultan Kudarat to the south, and Maguindanao to the west.
The Province of Cotabato lies on the eastern part of Region XII and is strategically located in the central part of Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, on the east by Davao City, on the southeast by Davao Del Sur, on the west by Maguindanao Province and on the southwest by Sultan Kudarat Province.
Cotabato is strategically linked to the major "Arterial Road System" that traverses and connects the province to the Davao City - SOCSKSARGEN - 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, with an area of 656,590 hectares representing 45.06% of the whole regional area, stretches west from Mt. Apo, which separates it from Davao, to the Piapayungan Range on its boundary with Lanao. In the midst of these uplands is the basin of the Pulangi or Rio Grande de Mindanao, the second longest in the Philippines at 300 km, 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.
Cotabato derives its name from the Maguindanao kuta wato, meaning "stone fort", referring to the stone fort which served as the seat of the great Sultan Kudarat in what is now Cotabato City.
Islam was introduced in this part of the country in the later part of 15th century by Shariff Kabunsuan, a legendary Muslim missionary.
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. What is presently Cotabato remained outside the area of Spanish activities.
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 presently the provinces of Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Sarangani, became a district of the huge province (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. The pace of settlement 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. On November 22, 1973, by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 341, what remained of the old Cotabato was further divided into the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat. North Cotabato was later renamed Cotabato through Batas Pambansa Blg. 660 approved on December 19, 1983.
Cotabato is presently composed of the component capital city of Kidapawan, 17 municipalities, and 544 barangays. The province has two congressional districts.
Cotabato genesis is a melting pot of people. 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 are migrants from Luzon and the Visayas, while the remaining 18% belong to the indigenous communities Manobo, T'boli, and Maguindanao. The major dialects spoken are Hiligaynon or Ilonggo (43%), Cebuano (31%), Maguindanao (16%), and Ilocano (10%). The main religions are Roman Catholicism and Islam.
Based on the National Statistics Office, Cotabato has an overall population of 918,992 (2000 Official Census). The average population growth rate is 1.36%, which is under the national average of 2.12%.
Cotabato is considered as Mindanao’s food basket. It is a major 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, with markets in Asia and Europe, and industrial trees.
Among its major natural assets are Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak at 10,311 feet 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.
Cotabato has a skilled and easily trainable labor force of 260,000, which includes highly-competent professionals in agriculture, sciences, engineering, and business among others.
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 two electric cooperatives, the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MAGELCO) and Cotabato Electric Cooperative, Inc. (COTELCO). The former serves the western part of the province while the later, the eastern and southern part.
The province has a 4, 131.32 km 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.
Over the last nine years, Cotabato has graduated from being a basket case to one of the Philippines most vibrant economies.
In 1998, Cotabato was listed as the 5th poorest province in the country. Early in 2006, the National Statistics Coordination Board ranked it 39th among the countries more progressive provinces based on the results of its most recent survey on poverty incidence.
The province, since 2004, has become Region XII’s favorite investment area.
The province registered a total of P397.49 million worth of investments in 2004, ranking second (2nd) only to General Santos City. This meant a 113% leap in investments, the biggest in the region as of February 2005 according to DTI-12.
The Cotabato Province Investment Promotion Center (CPIPC) has recorded total investments made in the province from 2000 to 2004 at P901 million.
Leading investments is the continuously expanding banana industry with DOLE-Stanfilco standing as the biggest player, having a total investment of P200 Million. Lapanday Global Fruits in Dallag, Arakan has a P50 million investment, while new player AJMR promises to put in P3 billion.
This influx of investments has consequently opened more job opportunities for our workers in the province. Dole-Stanfilco opened 6,346 jobs for residents of Makilala, Magpet, and Kidapawan City, while Lapanday has provided employment to 167 local residents. Some 3,000 jobs will meanwhile be generated by AJMR’s operation.
New jobs generated by these investments from 200 to 2004 reached 68,595 new, and making Cotabato the leading province in job generation in the region, according to DOLE-12.
These developments have also ushered in added benefits- improvement of road networks, conversion of grasslands into productive areas, increase of micro-business establishments in the investment areas thus improving the quality of life of residents, and increased real property tax collection. It has also impacted on the age-long insurgency problem in areas like Makilala and Arakan, where the availability of a more stable source of income and better living conditions have somehow weakened the influence of Communist guerillas.
Much of this phenomenon could be credited to the rediscovery of the New Cotabato by both local and foreign investors. While the province has had our share of bad publicity due to the wars in the past years, Cotabato is slowly making a mark as a province that can offer a positive investment climate and a sound business opportunity to those who choose to put their money here.
The key to the development of any locality is infrastructure development, and it is in this area where the Provincial Government made huge investments.
The equipment pool of the Provincial Engineering Office was beefed-up followed by the implementation of a province wide maintenance, rehabilitation, and concreting of key provincial and barangay roads that would better connect our rural farming communities with the market while improving their accessibility for the delivery of basic services.
In cooperation with the Mindanao Rural Development Program and the Department of Public Works and Highways, infrastructure projects which included the rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads, construction of spring development projects, communal irrigation projects, bridges, flood control/drainage and installation of water systems were implemented.
With the approval of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the provincial government will now enter a new phase in its rural infrastructure development with the acquisition of a P38-M asphalt batching plant and other additional infrastructure equipment totaling about P60-M.
The target is to start the asphalting of provincial roads starting with the Libungan-Alamada-Banisilan Road and other heavily-used provincial road networks including those in the city of Kidapawan.
As a landlocked province, the Provincial Government realized that the only option left to Cotabateños in shipping out perishable produce- fruits from orchards and freshwater marine products from a number of municipalities- and ensuring they arrive fresh in markets in the Visayas and Luzon would be by air.
The availability of a secondary airport would also improve the accessibility of the province to potential investors, and provide additional job opportunities for the local labor force.
This realization gave birth to the North Cotabato Rural Airport, a 64-hectare airport project at Tawan-tawan, M’lang, which is the most important infrastructure project implemented in the province.
The provincial government bought the area for P12.8 Million while former Senator John Osmeña contributed P2.7-M for the pre-engineering works.
Through the efforts of Governor Emmanuel F. Piñol, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the PNOC-EDC to release to the province through the Department of Energy P40-M for the initial development of the airport project. This initial amount will be used to finance the construction of the terminal building, the flight service system building and the first phase of the runway.
The Provincial Government is now in the process of starting negotiations with small airline companieslike Asian Spirit in preparation for the initial operation of the project expected in late 2005.
Helping Cotabato farmers increase their production required increasing their ability to work their lands. Governor Piñol embarked on a carabao dispersal program early in his administration and later moved towards providing more modern agricultural services to farmers through a provincial tractor pool.
The provincial government acquired 22 units of tractors which provided field preparation services through cost recovery scheme to farmers financially incapable of procuring farm equipment and implements.
The tractors acquired in 2003 served a total area of 5,877 hectares in various municipalities around the province in the first year or operation alone.
The setting up of the tractor pool also provided jobs for the operators.
With the tractor pool, the provincial government has now scaled down its carabao dispersal program and encouraged farmers instead to avail of the mechanized farming program of the province.
The most important shift in Cotabato’s agricultural direction occurred with the executive and the legislative departments agreeing that the province must have a market-oriented agriculture.
The positive experience of a number of LGUs with the expanding Cavendish banana industry in the province shows that focusing on agricultural commodities that are highly marketable and globally in demand could boost local development even further.
The Provincial Government identified four major products to be given massive support: cardava banana, hybrid coconut with the support of the Philippine Coconut Authority, oil palm and rubber.
Presently, Cotabato is harvesting not less than 1 million kilos of Cavendish and lacatan bananas every week. The provincial government aims to develop at least 1,000 has. of cardava banana for 2005 under its plant now pay later program. About 2,000 hectares will be planted to cardava this year.
Cotabato has more or less 25,000 hectares planted to coconut. This is now being expanded in cooperation with the Philippine Coconut Authority.
A Memorandum Of Agreement has been signed by the provincial government and PCA for the provision of germinated coco nuts and seedlings to farmers in Cotabato. 80,000 seedlings have initially been released for distribution to interested farmers. The PCA will also provide technical assistance for the development of barangay nurseries
The province meanwhile has 1,400 hectares of oil palm plantation. The Provincial Government plans to develop 3,000 hectares under the Plant Now-Pay Later program and under the financing program of LBP
Two Malaysian-backed companies have developed oil palm nurseries in the provinces and have started producing planting materials good for about 3,000 hectares every year.
Rubber has been among the leading high-value products of the province. North Cotabato has more or less 22,000 hectares planted to rubber. After a slump in world prices, it has made a resurgence and increasing demand boosted by the growing mainland Chinese economy shows even brighter prospects.
Among the first moves the Provincial Government made in its rubber industry revival program is the creation of the Cotabato Rubber Development Board.
The immediate task of the Rubber Task Force now is the establishment of the provincial nursery for bud woods where new rubber clones will be propagated and be made available to local farmers. The province is targeting to expand its existing rubber area of 40,000 to about 80,000 hectares by 2007.
P7.2 Million was invested in 2005 for the development of these high-value commercial crops. Recently, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the allocation of an additional P10 million for rubber and another P10 million for oil palm development.
The advocacy of Governor Piñol for a nationwide rubber development program has also gained the support of the Department of Agriculture. The national rubber program is set to be launched at the Cotabato provincial gymnasium by Agriculture Secretary Domingo Panganiban on August 31, during the weeklong foundation anniversary celebration of the province which culminates on September 1
Rummors amongst people in Cotabato suggest that there was a battle between Communist and Islamic rebels somewhere in Cotabato. There were dead bodies of Islamic, and Communist. People don't know exactly what had happened but Philippine and US forces were sent to the scene to find out on what just happened. It is said that rebel forces fled when they heard US forces were coming to the scene due to sounds of gun fire.