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Spotlight on Development

Spotlight on Development:

A guide to the Philippines’ development hotspots and coldspots

The Philippines has been experiencing rapid development for the past years. Since 2013, the country has been enjoying an economic growth rate of 5%-7%. Just this 2nd Quarter of 2017, the Philippines became the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia, with a growth rate of 6.5%, overtaking Vietnam’s 6.2% growth.


Figure 1: Development Hotspots & Coldspots

Unlike before where these developments concentrate in major urban centers such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. Over the past years, development has also spread to neighboring cities/municipalities, thereby creating clusters of developed areas or hotspots.

To identify the development hotspots and coldspots in the country. Each development indicator was tested for spatial auto-correlation and their spatial clusters for each data layer were then tested for statistical significance to determine the final development hotspots and coldspots.

Figure 2 shows that the development indicators exhibit positive spatial auto-correlation, thus indicating that they cluster geographically and that hotspots and coldspots must exist within the data sets.

Figure 2: Moran’s I value of the Development Indicators

It was determined that there are 3 development hotspots; 1. Mega-Manila super-hotspot, 2. Cebu hotspot, and 3. Iloilo hotspot.  And only 1 development coldspot; the Lanao Lake coldspot.

Figure 3: Mega Manila super-hotspot

The Mega Manila super-hotspot is the largest of the 3, both in terms of land area and number of cities and municipalities. It can be decomposed into two sub-hotspots: 1. Main hotspot (top image Figure 3) and 2. Pampanga hotspot (bottom image Figure 3). It also exhibits the most favorable development indicators compared to all the other hotspots in the country.

Figure 6: Lanao Lake Coldspot

Shown in figure 4 is the larger of the two hotspots in Visayas; the Cebu hotspot. It is composed of 7 cities and municipalities with Cebu city as its core. Figure 5, on the other hand, shows the Iloilo hotspot, composed of 5 cities and municipalities.

The only development coldspot, the Lanao Lake coldspot is composed of the municipalities of Bumabaran, Lanao del Sur; Buldon, Maguindanao; and Alamda, North Cotabato.

Figure 7 shows the comparison of the development indicators between the hotspots and coldspots. It can be readily observed that there is a significant difference between the development indicators of the hotspots and the coldspot, so much so that there might be a need for government investments in the Lanao Lake coldspot and the surrounding areas to improve the economic situation of the region.

Figure 7: Comparison of Development Indicators of the hotspots and coldspot

Also, upon splitting the Mega Manila super-hotspot into its components: Mega Manila and Pampanga, we find that Pampanga is poised for stronger economic expansion in the years ahead, exhibiting growth indicators that are at times ahead of equally vibrant provinces like Iloilo and Cebu. Judging by population density, however, it appears that Pampanga has significantly more room to absorb/ host more economic development as its population density is still way below Metro Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.

Figure 8: Emerging Hotspots

It was also identified that there are two emerging hotspots in the country (as shown in Figure 8), Metro Bacolod and Pangasinan. The Metro Bacolod

cluster (Figure 8) has Bacolod City as its urban center and includes the cities of Silay, Talisay, and Bago. It has the potential to become a new center of economic activity in Visayas, given that it is already shows signs of favorable development indicators. The Pangasinan

cluster (Figure 8), on the other hand, has an interesting characteristic of having two urban centers: Urdaneta City and the City of Dagupan. This scenario allows the cities and municipalities between the two centers to experience faster economic growth compared to their neighbors.

Figure 9: Potential Coldspots

Two potential coldspots were also identified (shown in Figure 9), CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) and Samar island. The low values of the development indicators exhibited in CAR might be attributed to the fact that most of the region is located in mountainous areas, hence there is inherent difficulty in creating an urban-type economy. On the other hand, the municipalities of Matuginao, Silvino Lobos, and Maslog in Samar, are surrounded by municipalities with similar development indicators, thus imitating the characteristics of a coldspot.


  1. 1. There are hotspots (Mega Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo) and coldspot (Lake Lanao) in the country; however, there are 2 emerging hotspots (Bacolod and Pangasinan) and 2 potential coldspots (CAR and Samar).
  1. 2. The Mega Manila hotspot is the largest of the three, both in terms of land area and number of units, and also shows the most favorable development indicators.
  1. 3. Pampanga is a rapidly developing province and shows that it still has much room for absorbing further economic growth. Sustained investment in Pampanga will bring it to the same league as Mega Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.


DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS, are the factors used in this study to determine the

level of development of an area. They are Population density (PDN), Poverty Ratio (PVR), Road Maturity Density (RMD), Residential Zonal Value (RZV), and Total Tax per Capita (TPC).

SPATIAL AUTO-CORRELATION, describes how clustered or dispersed the geographic distribution of a data set. It is measured by the Moran’s I Index.

DEVELOPMENT HOTSPOTS refer to clusters of areas where favorable development indicators cluster spatially. DEVELOPMENT COLDSPOTS, on the other hand, are clusters of areas whose development indicators are less favorable.



1. Chapter 3, Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

2. Spatial Auto-correlation and Moran’s I in GIS. GISGeography.

3. C. Dela Paz, 2017. Philippine GDP grows faster by 6.5% in Q2 2017. rappler.com. https://www.rappler.com/business/178966-gross-domestic-product-philippines-q2-2017

4. P. Viray, 2017. Philippine Economy Grows by 6.5% in Q2 2017. philstar.com. http://www.philstar.com/business/2017/08/17/1730056/philippine-economy-GDP-growth-2nd-quarter

5. Data Sources: Philippine Statistics Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Bureau of Internal RevenueOpenStreet Map

  1. 6. NOTE: Basemaps are from Google Maps.


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