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Urbanization & Settlement


Urban and Rural Distribution of Population

The distribution of municipalities in the Bicol Region with urban agglomerations during the census years 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 is presented below.  In 1970, only 58 out of the 114 municipalities, or barely 51 percent were with urban conglomerations.  This number increased to 111 municipalities in 1980 and remained static until 1990, with only 4 municipalities in Camarines Sur province having an entirely rural population (Bombon, Gainza, Presentacion, and Sangay).  In 2000, only two municipalities in the region remained in the entirely rural category:  Jovellar in  Albay and Presentation in Camarines Sur.  During the current census year, 4 cities/municipalities qualified in the entirely urban category, namely: the cities of Naga and Legazpi; and the municipalities of  Camaligan in Camarines Sur and Daet in Camarines Norte.

Province No. of Municipalities 1970 1980 1990 2000
No. % No. % No. % No. %
Bicol Region 115 58 51 111 96 111 96 113 98
Albay 18 11 61 18 100 18 100 17 94
Camarines Norte 12 5 42 12 100 12 100 12 100
Camarines Sur 37 17 46 33 89 33 89 36 97
Catanduanes 11 2 18 11 100 11 100 11 100
Masbate 21 12 57 21 100 21 100 21 100
Sorsogon 16 11 69 16 100 16 100 16 100

In terms of urban population, only 19 percent of the region’s population in 1970 were considered urban.  This increased progressively to almost 21 percent in 1980 and to 27 percent in 1990 with average intercensal annual growth rates of 2.70 and 3.42 percent, respectively.. Provincewise, Camarines Norte had the highest percentage of urban population relative to its total population (1990) at 32.59 percent,  followed by Albay with 27.72 percent and Camarines Sur, 27.50 percent.  Based on historical trend, Camarines Norte had the highest percentage of urban population in the region in 1970 at 26 percent followed by Sorsogon and Camarines Sur at 24.57 and 21.27 percent, respectively.  Albay’s urban population at 13.70 percent was the lowest among the six provinces of the region.  However, its fast rate of economic and social growth coupled by its high tempo of urbanization enabled Albay to emerge as the second most urbanized province in 1990.  In 2000, Camarines Norte remained as the most urbanized province with 34.97 percent of its total population classified as urban.  Albay ranked second with 31.14 percent, followed by Camarines Sur with 29.88 percent of its total population having urban agglomeration.

Urban Concentration of Population

Some urban places decreased tremendously their share of urban population relative to the region.  Through the years, poblaciones or central districts of advanced barangays of rural municipalities developed to qualify to the status of urban areas.  Since 1970, numerous entirely rural areas developed into urban agglomerations at impressive tempo and figured prominently ten and twenty years later as they surpassed erstwhile leading urban municipalities/areas.

Within each province, the concentration of the urban population can easily be detected.  Logically and not surprisingly, all the cities and/or capital towns showed the highest urban concentration of their respective provincial population.  Their prominence can be closely associated to the functions or roles they play vis-à-vis the other municipalities.  Such centers served as service points and seat of the provincial government, thus, enjoying the bulk of the flow of capital funds for developmental projects.

Evidently, only 32 municipalities had at least 1 percent share in urban agglomeration in 1970.  Throughout the 30-year census period, only 6 municipalities/cities figured consistently at the top among the 32 areas of concentration of urban population.  These were Naga City, Legazpi City, Daet, Iriga City, and Tabaco.  Unlike their contemporaries, however, Legazpi City and Tabaco, both in Albay, had been increasing their share progressively while Naga City, Daet and Iriga City were on the reverse trend.

Together with the impressive urban growth manifested by Legazpi City and Tabaco, Daraga emerged to occupy the seventh spot in 1980.  It retained its rank in 1990 by increasing further its share to 2.40 percent.  Significantly, this development pinpointed to the socio-economic progress in Albay.

While most of the “old” places decreased their urban share during the 25-year intercensal period, five municipalities that were classified as rural in 1970 overtook 32 other municipalities in the rankings.  In contrast, five municipalities which had higher than one percent urban share were eliminated from the list as they failed to register a share of one percent and above during the next two decades.

Noteworthy, four of the five municipalities with new urban districts shared the same qualities and resource potentials and were strategically located.  They served as service points or jumping boards for other municipalities.  These municipalities were Mercedes and Paracale in Camarines Norte, Pasacao in Camarines Sur and Pioduran in Albay.  Except for Paracale, all were coastal towns and fishlanding areas equipped with good ports.  Pasacao and Pioduran both face the China Sea.  Pasacao, having a national port, served as a transit point of people from San Pascual in Burias Island, Masbate, as well as those from the coastal barangays along Bondoc Peninsula and from the barangays of railroad municipalities of Camarines Sur.  The port played a significant role in the water transport system towards the National Capital Region and other northern parts of Luzon.  Pioduran, aside from serving as a transit point of the population of Claveria, Burias Island, is a fish and livestock landing port.  Equipped with an ice plant, the town abounds with fish dealers who transport their goods straight to Navotas and Manila.  Likewise for Mercedes in Camarines Norte.  On the other hand, Paracale was historically a gold mining town since pre-war years.  These situations indicated clearly that the presence of economic opportunities and utilities/facilities in the said areas tended to attract population and promote fast urbanization.

The phenomenon of new urban districts seemingly occurred when prominent settlement centers of the Spanish era and pre-war years, such as Camalig, Guinobatan and Libon in Albay; Labo and Vinzons in Camarines Norte; Tigaon and Nabua in Camarines Sur, failed to expand economic activities and job opportunities for their swelling population.  People would rather be attracted to areas with potentials for exploitation and where their economic needs can be easily met and satisfied. Frontier areas such as Pasacao, Pioduran and Mercedes predictably became magnets/absorbers of the venturesome segment of the region’s population.

Census year 2000 saw the emergence of municipalities with new urban agglomerations. Surprisingly, those municipalities were at the bottom of the 1970-1990 urban listing but were able to gain more than one percent urban population in 2000.  One was the municipality of Donsol, Sorsogon, which ranked 69th in 1990 but was elevated to 12th in 2000.  Its economic development was attributed to a booming tourism industry sparked by the rare presence of whale sharks locally known as butanding in Donsol Bay.  Another municipality that rapidly urbanized was San Lorenzo Ruiz in Camarines Norte.  Being adjacent to Daet, some people from the capital town chose to relocate to San Lorenzo Ruiz for their residential area. The site also attracted people from other neighboring municipalities and eventually stirred up the sprouting of subdivisions and housing projects in the area.  San Lorenzo Ruiz ranked 90th in 1990 but advanced to 15th in 2000.  Three municipalities in Camarines Sur were not in the 1990 list but were now categorized as big shareholders in the region’s urban population. These included Calabanga, Camaligan and Canaman.  The growth of the municipality of Calabanga from 31st in 1990 to 10th place in 2000, was attributed to the operation of the Tamban Port and the rehabilitation/concreting of corresponding access roads. Being very proximate to Naga City, the municipalities of Camaligan and Canaman enjoyed the fruits of development in the city. In fact, Camaligan is now categorized as a 100 percent urban municipality.  In the province of Masbate, the municipality of Aroroy was classified in the top one percent.  From rank 66th in 1990, Aroroy now ranks 19th.  A mining boom in the early part of the 90s has led to its progress.

For the past 30 years, Naga City led the list of urbanized cities in the region but was overtaken by Legazpi City in year 2000.  The two cities have been growing inversely.  Legazpi City has increased its share in the region’s urban population, which is now the biggest share as per the 2000 census.


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