Physical and Natural Characteristics
Batanes has a Lone Congressional District and one of the 5 provinces composing Region 02. It is composed of six municipalities a)Basco, the capital town b)Mahatao, c)Ivana, d)Uyugan, and the island municipalities of e) Sabtang and f) itbayat. It has a total of 29 barangays.
The province is a tiny archipelago, consisting of 10 islands. Three of these are inhabited: Batan, the main island and the second largest, Itbayat, the largest and Sabtang. The rest are Mavudis, Misanga, Ditarem, Siayan, Dinem, Vuhos, Adekey. The northernmost island is Mavudis, also known as Yami.
Philippine Sea in the west
Batanes is situated at longitude 121o 53’ east and at latitude 22o 20’ north. Batanes is nearer to Taiwan than mainland Luzon at about 860 kilometers north of the center of government in Manila, about 280 kilometers from Aparri, and about 190 kilometers south of Taiwan.
It is separated from Taiwan by the deep Bashi Channel in the north and from Babuyan Islands of Cagayan Province by the Balintang Channel in the south. The Pacific Ocean in the east and the
Philippine Sea in the West drain in these channels, producing powerful, treacherous currents that make Batanes difficult to access by light sea craft.
Batanes is the smallest province of the Philippines, with a land mass only one third of that of Metro Manila. Its vast territorial waters of 4,500 square kilometers is around 20 times more than its land area of only about 229 square kilometers of which 31.5 square kilometers represent the combined land areas of the 7 uninhabited islets. Its small area limits its land based resources but its vast territorial waters teem with migratory, deep sea fish.
Climate and Weather Pattern
Batanes has a semi-temperate climate resulting from its location near the upper boundary of the Tropic of Cancer. It lies within the typhoon path in Northern Philippines and is always used as a reference point since the northernmost weather station is located in Basco, the capital town of Batanes.
Even during summer, weather in Batanes is relatively cooler than the rest of the Philippines. The coldest months or winter without snow is from December to February where temperature at times fall to below 10 degrees. Rain is distributed throughout the year but is generally warmer and drier from April to June.
The Ivatans have their concept of wind direction as seen in the following chart.
Figure 1 Wind Direction (Batanes)
Source: Basco Municipal Mayor’s Office
(Compiled and written by Robert C. Bastillo)
The terrain is rugged with steep hills and mountains occupying close to half (42%) of the total land area. Only a small portion (6%) of its land area is flat. But flat lands are used mostly as settlements. These means that farming is done on hillsides and small plateaus that require soil conservation measures. Soil conservation and sustainable agriculture have been practiced in Batanes for centuries.
Batanes has high endemism of flora and fauna because of its isolated location. Many species of plants and animals are endemic, or found only in the islands, making the province an important bio-diversity conservation site.
In 1994, Batanes was proclaimed a Protected Area by then President Ramos, pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas Act or NIPAS Act of 1992 (RA 7586). In 2003, it was declared by Congress as the Batanes Protected Landscaped and Seascapes, making the earlier declaration permanent. Batanes was classified as a protected area due to its continuous spectrum of habitat types from the mountains to the sea, the presence of useful, endemic, rare and endangered flora and fauna, its role as a flyway of migratory birds and its rich cultural and social heritage. It is the only province in the Philippines that was declared in its entirety as a protected area.
The landmass of Batanes was formed from reef building and uplift of coral reefs from the sea pushed up by the movement of the earth’s crust on one hand, and the deposits of solidified magma and volcanic ash from successive volcanic eruptions on the other hand. Fertile lands are volcanic soil that deposited over coral limestone base.
The geologic formation of Batanes started 35 million years ago and is considered by scientists as still ongoing. Evidences of this geological evolution are being conserved. These include the karst landscape of limestone cliffs, caves and subterranean rivers and, the boulder beaches with rocks spewn from the interiors of the earth and smoothed into spherical shapes by powerful waves.
The boulder beaches are unique to Batanes as much as they are significant. Unlike the other volcanic rocks of the Philippines, the level of strontium in Batanes rocks is exceedingly high. High levels of this rare earth element in rocks is usually attributed to the presence of upper mantle materials such as those found in hot spot volcanoes in Hawaii. The level of strontium in Batanes rocks is so high that a Geiger Counter would sound off warnings inside hoses built with these volcanic rocks.
The boulders are used for house building and construction. This produces a tension between conservation and economic use.
The Batanes archipelago has 9 volcanoes, two of which are considered active or have shown evidence of eruption within the past few thousands of years.
The latest census released in the year 2016 by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) has pegged the total population of Batanes at 17,246 spread in the following towns: