Brief Profile


The Province of Sulu is situated at the southern portion of the Philippines. It lies approximately midway between Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. It is surrounded by the Sulu and Mindanao Seas on the West and North, and the Celebes Sea on the East.

Over 157 islands and islets, some of them still unnamed, compose the province. These are divided into four groups – Jolo group, Pangutaran group, Tongkil-Banguingui (Samales) group and Siasi-Tapul group. The islands have varied terrain.

Mindanao Map showing the area of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

Jurisdically, the province is divided into two congressional districts, eighteen municipalities and 410 barangays. Ten (10) municipalities are on mainland Jolo while eight (8) others are island municipalities. Last July 14, 2007, a referendum was held at Municipality of Luuk, creating its municipality into two local government units, the municipality of Luuk and Omar, respectively.

Various government agencies report varying land areas for Sulu. According to the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority, Sulu has a total land area of 160,040 hectares. On the other hand, based on the National Statistics Office (NSO) 2000 Demographic and Socio-Economic profile, the province has a land area of 1,754.6.

Jolo is high and mountainous, being volcanic in origin. Mountains are scattered throughout the island but do not form a mountain range. Thus, small pockets of valleys and wide stretches of undulating to rolling lands are formed and utilized as farming areas. Siasi Island is also volcanic in origin and of hilly interior. The other islands such as Pangutaran are swampy, forested, flat and low islands of coral formation. Less than twenty percent of the provincial land area (mostly in mainland) has more than 18 degrees slope.

Rivers in the major islands are too small and insignificant to permit navigation. There are few protected harbors all located in Jolo and Siasi. A number of crater lakes can be found on Jolo mainland, most prominent of which are the Seit and Panamao lakes.

Map of the Province of Sulu


Sulu has a total population of 619,668 based on the NSO-2000 Census of Population. In 1995, it recorded a total population of 536, 201. Sulu experienced a 5.6% annual decline in population from 1970 to 1975 owing to upheaval during the said period. The province registered an annual growth rate of 8.5% in 1975 to 1980 as Suluanons returned to their native province when peace and order normalized. From 1980 to 1990, population growth stabilized at the rate of 2.7% per annum. From 1990 to 1995 it was at 2.5%, and from 1995 to 2000, it remains at 3.15%, a slight increase from the 2% growth rate from 1970 to 2000.


Historical Growth

As of 2000, household population stood at 619,550, only 118 less than the total population. Jolo, the smallest in terms of land area is the most densely populated municipalities while other highly populated municipalities are Siasi, Parang, Indanan, Patikul, Luuk and Panamao (44.6%). The other Ten Municipalities had only 43.61% of the population.

The number of households in Sulu reached 98, 151 in 2000. Jolo had the biggest number of households at 12,814, which is equivalent to 13%. Talipao (11,938), Indanan (9,132), Parang (8,176) and Siasi (8,094) followed this. Average household size is 5.5, from a range of 5.0 in Kalingalan Caluang to 7.0 in Tapul.

The population density in Sulu is 377.93 persons per square kilometer in 2000 compared to 327 persons per square kilometer in 1995. Jolo, which has a land area of 22.2 square kilometers and a population of 87,998, has a very high density of 3,960 .7 per square kilometer while the island municipalities of Pangutaran and Panglima Tahil had only one hundred one (101) and 107 persons per square kilometers, respectively.

Sulu Population, Annual Population Growth Rate, Density, Area, by city/municipality. 1990, 2000 (using the province land area of 1,754.60 sq. km).

Based on the 2000 survey of population by the National Statistics Office, Sulu has a combined population of 377,396 or 61% of the total population that comprised the economically active population (16 – 64 years old). Individuals aged 0 to 14 years constituted 230,910 or 37% and those aged 65 years and above, 11,362 or 2% two percent.

In 2000, dependency ratio was 64. This means that for every 100 persons in the working age group of 15 to 64 years, there were 64 dependents, that is, 51 young dependents (0 to 14 years old) and three old dependents (65 years and over). The 2000 ratio was lower than the ratio reported in 1995 of 70%.

The population of Sulu in 2000 was female dominated with a sex ratio of 96. This means that there were 96 males for every 100 females. Five years back (1995), the sex ratio of the province was recorded at 106.

There were more males than females in the age bracket 10-14 years, 40 to 44 years, and 50 to 79 years while females dominated their male counterparts in the age groups 9 years and below, 15 to 39 years, 45 to 49 years, and 90 years and above.

More than half of the household population or 52%, 10 years old and over were single while more than 40% were married. Those with other marital arrangements recorded more than one percent in 2000.

Among single and married persons, the proportion of males (49.8 % and 49.7% respectively) and females (50.2% and 50.3% respectively) was almost equal. On the other hand, there was a higher proportion of females among widowed (71%) and separated/divorced (58%) compared to their male counterparts. However, among those with other marital arrangements, the proportion of males (52%) was higher compared to females (48%).

Of the total household population of 619,550 in the province, majority or 85.27 % classified themselves as Tausug, followed by Sama/Samal with 8%, and Badjao with more than two percent. The remaining 2.63 percent belonged to other ethnic groups.

In 2000, more than 97% of the household population in Sulu was Islam believers. Roman Catholics ranked second with about one percent while members of Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints ranked third with 0.11 percent. The remaining 0.46 percent was with other religion.

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