Palawan (island)

Palawan is the largest island of the province of Palawan in the Philippines and fifth-largest by area and tenth-most populous island of the country, with a total population of 994,101 as of 2020 census. The north west coast of the island is along the South China Sea, while the south east coast forms part of the northern limit of the Sulu Sea.[4] Much of the island remains traditional and is considered by some as under-developed. Abundant wildlife, jungle mountains, and some white sandy beaches attract many tourists, as well as international companies looking for development opportunities.[5]

Map with Palawan Island highlighted in red
Location within the Philippines
LocationSouth East Asia
Coordinates9°30′N 118°30′E
ArchipelagoPhilippine islands
Adjacent to
Area12,188.6 km2 (4,706.0 sq mi)[1]
Area rank64th
Length425 km (264.1 mi)[2]
Width40 km (25 mi)[2]
Coastline1,354.1 km (841.4 mi)[1]
Highest elevation2,086 m (6844 ft)[1]
Highest pointMount Mantalingajan
Capital and largest cityPuerto Princesa (pop. 307,079)
Population994,101 (2020)[3]
Pop. density72.7/km2 (188.3/sq mi)

As of 2016, the main island of Palawan was rated the "Most Beautiful Island in the World" as voted by respective readers of rival travel publications Conde Nast Traveller and Travel + Leisure.[6][7] It is the second year running that Palawan has won the Conde Nast Traveller award, as well as the second time in four years that it has occupied Travel + Leisure's top spot (2013).[8][9] El Nido, located at the northern tip of the island, is also currently rated the "Most Beautiful Beach in the World" by Conde Nast Traveller readers.[10] In 2007, National Geographic Traveler[11] magazine rated Palawan the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region, having:

... incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines. The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development."

The National Geographic[11]

One city and 12 out of the 23 municipalities of the Province of Palawan are on this island. Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, one of seven operating units of the Bureau of Corrections, is located on the island.


The entire length of the island forms a mountain range, with a peak altitude of 2,086 meters (6,844 ft) at Mount Mantalingajan. Other significant peaks include Mount Gantung (1,788 meters (5,866 ft)) in Batazara and Victoria Peak (1,726 meters (5,663 ft)) in Narra.[2] Cagayancillo is far to the east of the island, while Dumaran Island and the more distant Cuyo Archipelago are to the northeast, with Linapacan and Busuanga Island nearby in the north-northeast. The archipelago of Kalayaan Municipality is west of Palawan, while Balabac Municipality is south of the island's western edge.


The geology of Palawan is, in many ways, unlike other parts of the Philippines. The crust of northeast Palawan was derived from the southeast edge of the continental crust of China, part of the Eurasian Plate. It is the exposed portion of a microcontinent that drifted southward with the opening of the South China Sea. This microcontinent also forms the shallow water north of Palawan in the Reed Bank-Dangerous Ground area of the southern South China Sea. Some of the oldest rocks of the Philippines are found in northeast Palawan (Permian-Carboniferous age). Southwest Palawan exposes primarily ophiolitic material (rocks derived from uplifted oceanic crust and mantle). This 34 Myr old (latest Eocene-earliest Oligocene) ophiolite[12] appears to have been thrust upon the continental crust as well as the older, Cretaceous ophiolitic and sedimentary units. The transition from "oceanic" ophiolite in the southwest to "continental"-type rocks in the northeast occurs in the area of central Palawan around Ulugan Bay and the Sabang area. In the southern coasts of Ulugan Bay and Sabang Beach, are several exposures showing that the Palawan ophiolite has been thrust on to the continent-derived clastic rocks ("Sabang thrust").[13]

The Palawan Trough is an area of deeper water adjacent to the north coast of Palawan in the South China Sea.[14] The Palawan trough is thought to be due to downbending of the continental crust due to the weight of the ophiolite thrust sheet.

Further north, around the Malampaya Sound area and up to the El Nido area, one finds older (Triassic-Jurassic) deep marine chert and limestone. The limestone forms spectacular karst terrain. These units are part of the microcontinent ("North Palawan Block") although they are deep marine rocks marginal to the continental crust. They were accreted to the Chinese continental crust in the Mesozoic at a time when an Andean-type subduction zone existed in southeast China.

Intruding these rocks in central Palawan (Cleopatra's Needle area) and northern Palawan (Mount Capoas or Kapoas area) are young granite bodies (true granite to granodiorite). The Kapoas intrusion is of Miocene age (13-15 million years old based on zircon and monazite U-Pb dating).[15] In the Taytay area of northern Palawan, a young basaltic cinder cone is another manifestation of young magmatic activity. The granitic magmatism and basaltic magmatism are both expressions of what has been identified as a widespread post-South China Sea spreading magmatism that has affected many areas around the South China Sea.[16]

Tectonically, Palawan with the Calamian Islands, is considered to be a north-east extension of the Sunda Plate, in collision with the Philippine Mobile Belt at Mindoro.

Flora and fauna

Unlike most of the country, Palawan is biogeographically part of Sundaland, with a fauna and flora related to that found in Borneo.[17][18]


Two articulated phalanx bones of a tiger, besides another phalanx piece, were found amidst an assemblage of other animal bones and stone tools in Ille Cave near the village of New Ibajay. The other animal fossils were ascribed to macaques, deer, bearded pigs, small mammals, lizards, snakes and turtles. From the stone tools, besides the evidence for cuts on the bones, and the use of fire, it would appear that early humans had accumulated the bones.[18] Additionally, the condition of the tiger subfossils, dated to approximately 12,000 to 9,000 years ago, differed from other fossils in the assemblage, dated to the Upper Paleolithic. The tiger subfossils showed longitudinal fracture of the cortical bone due to weathering, which suggests that they had post-mortem been exposed to light and air. Tiger parts were commonly used as amulets in South and Southeast Asia, so it may be that the tiger parts were imported from elsewhere, as is the case with tiger canine teeth, which were found in Ambangan sites dating to the 10th to 12th centuries in Butuan, Mindanao. On the other hand, the proximity of Borneo and Palawan also makes it likely that the tiger had colonized Palawan from Borneo before the Early Holocene.[19][20]

Using the work of Von den Driesch,[21] all chosen anatomical features of appendicular elements' anatomical features which were chosen, besides molars, were measured to distinguish between taxa that had close relationships, and see morphometric changes over ages, though not for pigs or deer. For the latter two, cranial and mandibular elements, besides teeth of deer from Ille Cave were compared with samples of the Philippine brown deer (Cervus mariannus), Calamian hog deer (Axis calamianensis), and Visayan spotted deer (Cervus alfredi), and thus two taxa of deer have been identified from the fossils: Axis and Cervus.[22] Remains of pigs were compared with the Eurasian (Sus scrofa) and Palawanese wild boar (Sus ahoenobarbus). It is known that the Eurasian wild boar was imported as a domesticate to the islands from mainland Southeast Asia to the islands during the Terminal Holocene.[23][24][25][26][27]

Throughout deposits of the Terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene and Terminal Pleistocene at Ille Cave, elements of deer skeletons are regular, gradually becoming less before vanishing in the Terminal Holocene. One 'large' and one 'small' taxon can be easily differentiated by the significant change in size observed in the postcranial elements and dentition.[22] From comparisons of the mesial-distal and labio-lingual measurements of individual fossil teeth and mandibular toothrows with those of surviving deer taxa in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian islands, it appears that the Calamian hog deer is most plausible candidate for the small taxon. The hog deer exists in forest edges and open grassland habitats on the islands of Culion and Busuanga, which during the Pleistocene were part of the landmass of Greater Palawan, but not on Palawan itself nowadays.[28] As for the 'large' taxon of deer found in the Palawanese fossils, the Philippine brown deer from Luzon appears to be closely matched to them, from dental biometric comparisons which are similar between the latter and extant members of the genus Cervus or Rusa, particularly the Philippine brown deer (C. mariannus) and spotted deer (C. alfredi). However, the Philippine brown deer shows significant variation across its range, with populations on Mindanao Island being smaller than those of Luzon. Thus, it is possible that the overlap between the Luzonese brown deer and the archaeological material is coincidental, and that the fossils could belonged to another species of Cervus that had occurred in Palawan, with the taxonomic classification being unresolved.[29] The Philippine brown deer from Luzon appears to be closely matched to the 'large' taxon of deer found in the Palawanese fossils, from dental biometric comparisons which are similar between the latter and extant members of the genus Cervus or Rusa, particularly the Philippine brown deer (C. mariannus) and spotted deer (C. alfredi). However, the Philippine brown deer shows significant variation across its range, with populations on Mindanao Island being smaller than those of Luzon. Thus, it is possible that the overlap between the Luzonese brown deer and the archaeological material is coincidental, and that the fossils could belonged to another species of Cervus that had occurred in Palawan, with the taxonomic classification being unresolved.[29] Otherwise, members of the genus Cervus are no longer seen in the region of Palawan.[22]


In April 2013, a fishing vessel loaded with illegally poached animals ran aground on a coral atoll off the coast of Palawan Island.[30]

In May 2014, armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel T. Bautista said that Oyster Bay may be developed into a naval base with United States Navy support.[31]


  • Hogan, C. Michael (2011). Saundry, P.; Cleveland, C. J. (eds.). Sulu Sea. Washington, D.C., USA: Encyclopedia of Earth.

See also


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  2. "Palawan: Physical Feature". Provincial Government of Palawan. Archived from the original on 7 February 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  3. Census of Population (2015). "Region IV-B (Mimaropa)". Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay. PSA. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  4. C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Sulu Sea
  5. Keenan, Jillian. "The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines' Economic Growth". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  6. "Palawan, the Philippines: The Most Beautiful Island in the World". 13 July 2015., Conde Nast Traveller. 16 January 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016
  7. "The World's Best Islands".Travel + Leisure. 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016
  8. "Best Islands in the World: Readers Choice Awards 2015". 20 October 2014.Conde Nast Traveller. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2016
  9. "World's Best Islands 2013".Travel + Leisure. 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016
  10. "The 20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World". 24 February 2015.
  11. "Destinations Rated: Islands". The National Geographic. 2008.
  12. Keenan, Timothy E.; Encarnación, John; Buchwaldt, Robert; Fernandez, Dan; Mattinson, James; Rasoazanamparany, Christine; Luetkemeyer, P. Benjamin (2016-11-07). "Rapid conversion of an oceanic spreading center to a subduction zone inferred from high-precision geochronology". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113 (47): E7359–E7366. Bibcode:2016PNAS..113E7359K. doi:10.1073/pnas.1609999113. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 5127376. PMID 27821756.
  13. Encarnación, J.P., Essene, E.J., Mukasa, S.B., Hall, C. (1995) High pressure and temperature subophiolitic kyanite garnet amphibolites generated during initiation of mid-Tertiary subduction, Palawan, Philippines: Journal of Petrology, 36, 1481-1503.
  14. C.Michael Hogan (2011) South China Sea Topic ed. P.Saundry. Ed.-in-chief C.J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
  15. Encarnación, J.P., and Mukasa, S.B. (1997). Age and geochemistry of an 'anorogenic' crustal melt and implications for the origin of I-type granites. Lithos, 42(1-2), 1-13.
  16. Barr, S.M.; MacDonald, A.S. (1981). "Geochemistry and geochronology of late Cenozoic basalts of southeast Asia". Geol. Soc. Am. Bull.
  17. What is Sundaland?, retrieved 11 June 2010
  18. Piper, P. J.; Ochoa, J.; Lewis, H.; Paz, V.; Ronquillo, W. P. (2008). "The first evidence for the past presence of the tiger Panthera tigris (L.) on the island of Palawan, Philippines: extinction in an island population". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 264 (1–2): 123–127. Bibcode:2008PPP...264..123P. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2008.04.003.
  19. Van der Geer, A.; Lyras, G.; De Vos, J.; Dermitzakis, M. (2011). "15 (The Philippines); 26 (Carnivores)". Evolution of Island Mammals: Adaptation and Extinction of Placental Mammals on Islands. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 220–347. ISBN 9781444391282.
  20. Ochoa, J.; Piper, P. J. (2017). "Tiger". In Monks, G. (ed.). Climate Change and Human Responses: A Zooarchaeological Perspective. Springer. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-9-4024-1106-5.
  21. Von den Driesch, A. (1976). "A Guide to the Measurement of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites". Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University.
  22. Piper, Philip J.; Ochoa, Janine; Robles, Emil C.; Lewis, Helen; Paz, Victor (2011-03-15). "Palaeozoology of Palawan Island, Philippines". Quaternary International. Elsevier. 233 (2): 142–158. Bibcode:2011QuInt.233..142P. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.07.009.
  23. Larson, G.; Dobney, K.; Albarella, U.; Fang, M.; Matisso-Smith, E.; Robins, J.; Lowden, S.; Finlayson, H.; Brand, T.; Willersley, E.; Rowley-Conwy, P.; Andersson, L.; Cooper, A. (2005). "Worldwide Phylogeography of wild boar reveals multiple centers of pig domestication". Science. 307 (5715): 1618–1621. Bibcode:2005Sci...307.1618L. doi:10.1126/science.1106927. PMID 15761152. S2CID 39923483.
  24. Larson, G.; Cucchi, T.; Fujita, M.; Matisoo-Smith, E.; Robins, J.; Anderson, A.; Rolett, B.; Spriggs, M.; Dolman, G.; Kim, T.-H.; Thi, N.; Thuy, D.; Randi, E.; Doehrty, M.; Due, R. A.; Bolt, R.; Griffin, B.; Morwood, M.; Piper, P.; Bergh, G.v.d.; Dobney, K. (2007). "Phylogeny and ancient DNA of Sus provides insight into Neolithic expansion in Island Southeast Asia and Oceania". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 104 (12): 4834–4839. Bibcode:2007PNAS..104.4834L. doi:10.1073/pnas.0607753104. PMC 1829225. PMID 17360400.
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  26. Cucchi, T.; Fujita, M.; Dobney, K. (2009). "New insights into pig taxonomy, domestication and human dispersal in Island Southeast Asia: molar shape analysis of Sus remains from Niah Caves, Sarawak". International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 19 (4): 508–530. doi:10.1002/oa.974.
  27. Piper, P. J.; Hung, H.-C.; Campos, F. Z.; Bellwood, P.; Santiago, R. (2009). "A 4,000 year old introduction of domestic pigs into the Philippine archipelago: implications for understanding routes of human migration into through Island Southeast Asia and Wallacea". Antiquity. 83: 687–695. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00098914. S2CID 161296257.
  28. Heaney, L.; Balete, D.; Dolar, M. L.; Alcala, A.; Dans, A.; Gonzales, P.; Inlge, N.; Lepiten, M.; Oliver, W.; Ong, P.; Rickart, E.; Tabaranza, B.; Utzurrum, R. (1998). "A synopsis of the mammalian fauna of the Philippine Islands". Fieldiana Zoology (88).
  29. Meijaard, E.; Groves, C. (2004). "Morphometrical relationships between South-east Asian deer (Cervidae, tribe Cervini): evolutionary and biogeographic implications". Journal of Zoology. London. 263 (263): 179–196. doi:10.1017/S0952836904005011.
  30. "Poachers' boat hits coral reef". Newshub NZ. April 17, 2013.
  31. Mogato, Manuel (15 May 2014). "Philippines Offer US A Nearby Naval Base Amid Chinese Moves". Reuters. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
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