Central Luzon is a combination of towering mountains, extinct and active volcanoes, lush, verdant farmlands, and natural sea harbors. It is one of the leading growth regions in the Philippines, strategically located at the heart of Asia. Region III lies between Manila and Northern Luzon. It is composed of seven provinces, twelve cities and 118 municipalities. Its 7 provinces are Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. Its 12 cities are Balanga from Bataan, Malolos and San Jose del Monte from Bulacan, Cabanatuan, Gapan, Muñoz, Palayan and San Jose from Nueva Ecija; Angeles and San Fernando from Pampanga, Tarlac from Tarlac; and Olongapo from Zambales.
It includes all land area north of Manila Bay from the tip of Bataan peninsula on the west, and all the lands north of the Caraballo mountains on the east. It is the longest contiguous area of lowlands, and is otherwise known as the Central Plains of Luzon. The region produces one third of the country’s total rice production, thus is also called the Rice Granary of the Philippines.
Located adjacent to the National Capital Region (NCR), it has benefited from the “spillover” from Metro Manila. It is a part of the National Industrial Core Region, together with NCR and Region IV or the Southern Tagalog Region. The Core Region contributed 70% of manufacturing value added in 1988. It has emerged as an alternative area for investment to Region IV, but is still overcoming the effects of the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
Only 66 kilometers away from Metro Manila, Central Luzon contains the largest plain in the country and is the gateway to the Northern Luzon regions. It covers a total land area of 21,470 square kilometers. The City of San Fernando, in Pampanga, is the regional center. Aurora was transferred from Region IV to Region III through Executive Order No. 103 in 2002.
In terms of population, Region III was the third largest region, containing 10.50 percent of the 76.5 million human beings of the country as recorded in Census 2000. Located at the crossroads of Asia-Pacific, Central Luzon is one of the dynamic and vibrant regions in the Philippines. It caters to European and American business organizations desiring to penetrate Asia.
Central Luzon also has its share of colorful history. Malolos, Bulacan was the place where the first constitution of an independent Philippines was promulgated on January 21, 1899. Tarlac town became the seat of the Philippine government for one month in March 1899, when Pres. Aguinaldo left Bulacan to escape approaching US forces.
The travel time to Malolos by land from Metro Manila is 42 minutes. The travel time to Clark Special Economic Zone is one hour and 44 minutes by land from Metro Manila. The City of San Fernando in Pampanga, is one hour and six minutes by land from Metro Manila. Olongapo City and its adjacent Subic Bay Freeport Zone by land from Metro Manila is two hours and five minutes.
The population of Central Luzon Region on January 1st 2010 is approximately 9,793,184. (Extrapolated from a population of 8,204,742 on May 24th 2008 and a population of 9,720,982 on February 28th 2010.) The region has the highest urban population ratio (60.3%) to total population.
There are three areas of urban population concentration: (a) areas in Bulacan along highways leading from Metro Manila; (b) San Fernando-Angeles City-Mabalacat corridor area; (c) Subic - Dinalupihan area. The total urban population in these areas is over 2 million, over half of the total urban population in Central Luzon.
Human resources in the region are better prepared in terms of a higher participation rate at the primary and secondary levels of education. The participation rate of Central Luzon is 94.2% and 86.1%, respectively, as compared to the national average of 85.7% and 66.1% in SY 1992- 93. There are comparatively more non-government organizations, cooperatives and people’s organizations in the region.
Dry season in the Region is from November to May. Rains normally occur during the months of July to October.
LAND USE AND FORESTRY
Region III covers a total land area of 2,147,036 hectares. Of this, 1,204,649 hectares are alienable & disposable lands (A&D) and 942,387 hectares are forest lands. Forty-one percent (41%) of the A&D lands are agricultural plains, with rice as the major crop. The region also produces corn, banana, fruits, and vegetables.
Forest land comprises 43.89% of the region’s total land area. Based on the 2011 Philippine Forestry Statistics, the region has a total forest cover of 589,495 hectares, mostly concentrated in the provinces of Aurora and Zambales.
As of 2012, a total of 120 Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) Agreements have been issued by the DENR in Region 3 placing under community stewardship 66,822.63 hectares of forestland, benefitting 120 people’s organizations and 10,454 households.
The CBFM is a government strategy which “gives the management of forests back to the people.” It offers long-term security of tenure to partner-communities and promotes an integrated approach to sustainable forest resource management.
Central Luzon is rich in timber and mineral resources (both metallic and non-metallic). Aurora is known for its timber; Zambales for its refractory chromite, copper and nickel deposits; Tarlac for Manganese; Bulacan for marble; Pampanga for sand and gravel; and Nueva Ecija for feldspar.
Fertile rice lands, melon patches and fishponds can also be found along rivers and tributaries. Region III accounts for the third largest aquaculture production in the Philippines. Aurora’s 332-kilometer coastline and Zambales’ 272 kilometers are teeming with marine resources.
The three-layered virgin forest of Subic Bay and Bataan is home to the world's largest bats: the giant flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) and the golden crown flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus). Over the years, these two species of giant fruit bats have roamed the 10,000-hectare Subic Watershed and Forest Reserve, which is among the world’s largest roosting sites for bats.
An ordinary giant flying fox weighs up to 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms) which is heavier than the golden crown flying fox. The golden crown, however, is the largest of all bats with wingspan measuring up to six feet.
In Zambales, the 17,000-hectare Mt. Tapulao is home to species of murrid rodents, the Rhyncomys tapulao and Apomys brownorum. These rodents can only be found in Mt. Tapulao.
Seven insectivorous bats were recorded in Mt. Tapulao, three of which are endemic to the Philippines -- the yellow-faced horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus virgo), large-eared horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus philippinensis), and the orange-fingered myotis (Myotis rufopictus).
Central Luzon has 24 sites included in the initial components of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), consisting of eight national parks, one bird/fish sanctuary, and 15 watershed forest reserves.
Of these, the following have already been proclaimed as protected areas: Roosevelt National Park (Bataan), Dinadiawan River (Aurora), Amro River (Aurora), Talaytay River (Aurora), Simbahan-Talagas River (Aurora), and Masinloc & Oyon Bays Marine Reserve (Zambales).
Region III is an important trading center and transportation terminal for products. Land travel is facilitated by a network of well-paved and extensive highways and roads linking all municipalities within the region. An extensive railway system is planned to be built linking Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga and Manila. The two former U.S. bases, the Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga and Subic Naval Base in Zambales, are now special economic zones. There are two international airports in the region: Clark International Airport (now Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) and Subic International Airport. Port facilities facilitate trade with other areas in the Asia-Pacific region such as Hongkong, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Central Luzon is well provided with communication facilities. Its provinces have adequate supply of electricity and potable water. Big markets, recreational facilities, and educational and financial institutions service the needs of the populace.
The major trading centers in the region are Olongapo in Zambales, Angeles City and San Fernando in Pampanga; Cabanatuan and San Jose in Nueva Ecija; Balanga in Bataan province, Tarlac City, Tarlac and Malolos, Bulacan.
Seven Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices (PENROs) and twelve (12) Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENROs) are serving the mandate of the DENR in Region 3. These are: PENROs Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales; and CENROs Casiguran, Dingalan, Dinalupihan, Bagac, Tabang, San Rafael, Cabanatuan, Munoz, Capas, Camiling, Olongapo, and Masinloc.