15 Poorest Cities in the Philippines
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15 Poorest Cities in the Philippines

The Philippines is a nation rich in culture, natural wonders, and economic vibrancy. Yet, amidst these strengths, it grapples with issues like poverty, inequality, and corruption.

In this article, we will answer the question, “What is the poorest city in the Philippines?” To provide a clear answer, we consulted the Philippines Statistics Authority’s official poverty statistics for 2021 and identified the 15 cities with the highest poverty rates. 

1. Butuan City 

Butuan City
(Image Source: Yahoo news)

Address: Caraga Region, Mindanao

Livelihood: Agriculture, commerce, and trade

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 22.6%

Butuan City, located along the Agusan River, has a vibrant history and bustling riverfront markets that highlight its cultural heritage. Despite its historical significance, the city has a high poverty rate, which can be attributed to a variety of factors. 

These include its remote location, which makes transportation of goods and services difficult; limited economic opportunities due to its size and industry scope; and the negative effects of natural disasters such as typhoons and floods.

2. Iligan City 

Iligan City
(Image Source: GoGetFunding)

Address: Northern Mindanao

Livelihood: Manufacturing and agriculture

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 11.8%

Nestled in Northern Mindanao’s embrace, Iligan City, often dubbed the “City of Majestic Waterfalls,” races visitors with lush mountains and enchanting cascades, providing a tranquil haven. Yet the city faces poverty due to a range of factors. 

These include employment issues that affect residents’ livelihoods, its location in a conflict zone that discourages investment, insufficient infrastructure that impedes business operations, and the effects of natural disasters like landslides and flooding.

3. Lapu Lapu City 

Lapu Lapu City
(Image Source: Sunstar)

Address: Central Visayas

Livelihood: Tourism, fishing, and trading

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 10.8%

Lapu-Lapu City takes its name from a local hero known as “Datu Lapulapu.” This tropical paradise features pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and a unique blend of history and modernity. 

Poverty, on the other hand, remains a problem due to a lack of economic diversification, which affects available livelihoods and was exacerbated by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

4. Tacloban City 

Tacloban City
(Image Source: Inquirer.net)

Address: Leyte, Eastern Visayas

Livelihood: Fishing, agriculture, and trade

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 10.7%

Rising from the tragic tales of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda), Tacloban City has become a symbol of resilience, with its beautiful waterfront and heartfelt memorials reflecting a spirit of unity. 

However, persistent poverty stems from the long road to recovery after the typhoon, affecting access to essential services and sustainable livelihoods.

5. Mandaue City 

Mandaue City
(Image Source: Zipmatch)

Address: Central Visayas 

Livelihood: Manufacturing and commerce

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021):10.4%

Mandaue City is known as the “princess” compared to Cebu’s “queen.” Even though it has thriving commerce and cultural diversity, economic disparities persist.

Typhoon Odette worsened living conditions for informal settlers, and while the city thrives with urban energy and cultural heritage, income inequality and limited opportunities for marginalized groups remain challenges.

6. Cebu City 

Cebu City
(Image Source: Reddit)

Address: Cebu, Central Visayas 

Livelihood: Commerce, trade, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 9.8%

Cebu City, known as “Queen City”, radiates cosmopolitan allure with its historical landmarks, modern progress, and dynamic nightlife. However, despite its location in the prosperous province of Cebu, the city faces persistent poverty challenges.

Amid its bustling economy, pockets of impoverishment endure, primarily affecting informal settlers and marginalized communities, hindering their access to crucial education and healthcare services.

7. Olongapo City 

Olongapo City
(Image Source: Dreamstime )

Address: Zambales, Central Luzon

Livelihood: Tourism, commerce, and trade

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 7.6%

Olongapo City, nestled among picturesque mountains and the Subic Bay coastline, is known for its recreational attractions and ties to American military history. Yet poverty remains an issue due to job creation challenges, leading to income inequalities. 

The closure of Subic Bay Naval Base and the aftermath of Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption have significantly impacted the city’s economy, influencing businesses, employment opportunities, and overall growth.

8. Cagayan De Oro City

Cagayan De Oro City
(Image Source: MindaNews)

Address: Northern Mindanao

Livelihood: Commerce, trade, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 6.8%

Cagayan De Oro, often hailed as the “City of Golden Friendship,” welcomes guests with thrilling white-water rafting, diverse cuisine, and a fusion of urban charm and natural splendor. 

Yet, hidden beneath its warmth, persistent poverty is driven by unequal growth and limited jobs, made worse by COVID-19’s economic impact.

9. Lucena City 

Lucena City
(Image Source: Inquirer.net)

Address: Quezon, CALABARZON, Luzon

Livelihood: Agriculture, commerce, and trade

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 6.4%

Lucena City, situated on the shores of Tayabas Bay, is a bustling urban center and a significant hub within the CALABARZON region. 

Despite its commercial and industrial prominence, the city faces poverty due to limited economic opportunities, high unemployment rates, restricted access to essential services, and its vulnerability to natural disasters such as typhoons and floods. 

10. Davao City

Davao City
(Image Source: Jearld Moldenhauer)

Address: Davao Region, Mindanao

Livelihood: Agriculture, commerce, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 5.1%

Amidst lush landscapes and the iconic Mount Apo, Davao City showcases a mix of adventure and urban living, offering fruit-filled markets, diverse flora and fauna, and a safe haven for travelers. 

In spite of its progress, the city remains impoverished due to unequal resource allocation and limited opportunities. Challenges include insufficient public transportation, a scarcity of employment options, and occasional typhoons that affect the region.

11. Puerto Princesa 

Puerto Princesa
(Image Source: The Longest Way Home)

Address: Palawan, MIMAROPA, Mindanao

Livelihood: Tourism, agriculture, and trade

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 4.8%

Puerto Princesa is famous for its underground river, vibrant marine life, and commitment to sustainable ecotourism, earning its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Despite progress in ecotourism, persistent poverty is worsened by limited economic diversification and the need for more comprehensive development approaches. Other issues include a lack of safe water sources for a large number of households.

12. Taguig City

Taguig City
(Image Source: World News)

Address: Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Luzon

Livelihood: Commerce, services, and industry

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 4.5%

Taguig City is a blend of modern and innovative, with skyscrapers alongside parks and cultural spots, creating a lively space for business and upscale experiences. Despite its economic prosperity, Taguig’s residents continue to face challenges.

The city’s location in the expensive Metro Manila area leads to a high cost of living, posing difficulties for residents to afford essential needs such as food, housing, and transportation.

13. Caloocan City 

Caloocan City
(Image Source: The National)

Address: Metro Manila, National Capital Region, Luzon

Livelihood: Commerce, industry, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 4.2%

Caloocan City, situated in Metro Manila, stands as one of the most populous cities with a population of 1,583,978. The city grapples with the recurring issue of squatter settlements.

Despite the city’s active efforts toward urban renewal, issues such as overcrowding and limited access to suitable housing and employment continue to be a problem, contributing to persistent poverty concerns. 

14. Bacolod City

Bacolod City
(Image Source: SunStar)

Address: Negros Occidental, Western Visayas

Livelihood: Agriculture, commerce, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 3.4%

Known as the “City of Smiles,” Bacolod radiates with friendly locals, festive celebrations like the “Maskara Festival”, and delectable local cuisine showcasing the province’s sugarcane heritage.

In spite of its vibrant culture, poverty remains a concern due to fluctuations in the sugar industry, which are often influenced by global market forces and external factors such as weather, affecting the livelihoods of many residents.

15. Iloilo City

Iloilo City
(Image Source: TheCityFix)

Address: Iloilo, Western Visayas

Livelihood: Commerce, trade, and services

Poverty Incidence Among Families (2021): 3.3%

Iloilo City combines old-world charm with urban vitality, as evidenced by colonial architecture, cultural celebrations, and the world-famous La Paz batchoy. However, despite its cultural richness, poverty remains an enduring concern. 

The city faces challenges such as job losses during extended lockdowns and housing issues caused by rapid population growth. As a result, many residents are forced to live in dangerous squatter settlements along rivers, canals, and roads.

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