THE PROVINCE OF BILIRAN is located in the Eastern Visayas region and considered to be one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines. Biliran Island lies in the northern coast of Leyte across Biliran Strait. Its capital is Naval and it used to be part of the province of Leyte until it became an independent province in 1992.
The province was known in early times as Isla de Panamao referring to an ethnic fishing net. Then between 1600 and 1700 the province was renamed to Biliran Island. The province’ name was derived from the “Borobiliran” native grass that was abundant on the area during the Pre-Spanish colonization. A group of settlers arrived and made a settlement in Albacia which is now a municipality of Biliran in the 18th century. And after a few years the settlers transferred to Magsanoc. However, the latter area was burned to the ground, thus, the settlers decided to settle on the plains of Biliran.
In 1712, the Island was part of the province of Cebu. Then in the year 1768 the Islands of Samar and Leyte became two independent provinces. The settlement grew and formally became a municipality of Leyte after a few years. On April 8, 1959 by virtue of Republic Act No. 2141, Biliran became a sub-province of Leyte. It was only on May 11, 1992 when Biliran was made as an independent province by virtue of Republic Act No. 7160.
The province has a total land area of 55,542 hectares or 555.4 square kilometers only with two major Islands: Biliran Island and Maripipi Island. The main island is mountainous with very narrow coastal areas. Only the municipalities of Naval and Caibiran have wide plains suitable for agriculture. Land use is primarily for agriculture which comprises 30,628 hectares of the total land area. Forest land totals to 12,879 hectares; 598 hectares for fishpond, mangrove and inland water; built-up area is 1,855 hectare, and open and grasslands constitutes 9,582 hectares.
Currently Biliran has a total population of 140,274 with 27,907 households. Annual population growth rate is 1.28%. The inhabitants of Biliran primarily speak Cebuano and Waray. Majority of the residents also speak and understand Tagalog and English.
On the other hand, climate of the province is classified as Type II. Biliran Island does not experience a prolonged dry season but it has very pronounced rainfall especially during December and only subsides in January. Minimum rainfall is experienced in the month of April.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY IN BILIRAN
Fishing is the main economic factor for the province, especially in the towns of Naval and Biliran which has excellent seaports. There are areas which produce prawns, shrimps and milkfish, and some does seaweed farming as well as fish cage culture. Lowlands is also beneficial to palay production and other tropical crops, while highlands are used for high-value crops such as cutflowers and varieties of vegetable traditionally grown in Baguio City or Tagaytay City.
Additional investment comes from hunting, lumber and manufacturing, raw materials produced such as copra and coconut oil, processed goods such as white clay ceramics, dried fish, raw gulaman, and citronella oil. The principal goods are also exported in other provinces in the Philippines such as copra, rice, bananas and dried fish. During the year 2000, 243 establishments were registered and had a declared total capitalization of 26 million pesos.
Various agri-based products can be bought here, as well as processed goods like citronella oil and coconut oil.
MUNICIPALITIES OF BILIRAN
Biliran has 8 municipalities, except for Maripipi Island which is located in the northwest side:
Biliran Province boasts of coral reef gardens, scenic waterways, white sand beaches, natural hot and cold water springs:
Agta Beach Resort
This is located in Almeria.
This beach is situated in Naval.
Is located in Kawayan and is ideal for edible shellfish hunt.
Sculptured rock formations can be found here.
This is also located in Kawayan, ideal for water skiing and deep sea diving.
The Island is known for its moving white sand bar.
This is located in Naval.
The Island has scenic marine seascape.
Masagonsong Swimming Pool
This is located in Kawayan and provides amenities like kiosks, conference halls, dressing rooms and rest houses.
The Island is rich with marine life and corals.
This place boasts of bat caves and edible shellfishes.
The Falls is considered to be one of the best falls in the world.
Biliran has a 1-km airstrip that can accommodate light aircraft. However, the province is accessible via Tacloban which has daily flights to and from Manila, and Cebu which also has daily flights. From Cebu, tourists can take the fast ferry to Ormoc City and then proceed by land travel to Naval.
Major Bus Lines in Manila ply the route going to Naval. Travel time is approximately 28 hours.
The province may also be reached from Tacloban City by bus or mega taxi in 2-1/2 hours or from Ormoc City in 2 hours.