Sultan Kudarat was part of the former empire province of Cotabato, until its creation as an independent province (along with Maguindanao and North Cotabato) on November 22, 1973, through Presidential Decree No. 341 signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The name Sultan Kudarat given to the province was derived from the Muslim ruler, Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat who begun to assert his leadership in the year 1619 and reigned in the Sultanate of Maguindanao from 1625 to 1671. He is considered a national hero, and in his honor the province was named after him.
Sultan Kudarat is situated on the southwestern section of central Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato; on the south by South Cotabato and Sarangani; on the east by Davao del Sur; and on the west by the Moro Gulf and the Celebes Sea. The province's total land area is 5,298.34 square kilometres (2,045.70 sq mi).
Two major mountain ranges encompass the province; the Alip Mountain Range in Columbio and the Daguma Mountain Range within the towns of Bagumbayan, Isulan and Esperanza. The three coastal towns on the province's western side (Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang) are lined with mountain ranges that separate the central part of the province from the sea. There are also mountains on the eastern side, leaving flat land in between.
The province has an irregular coastline of 132 kilometres (82 mi) in its three coastal towns, which face the Celebes Sea. These coastal areas are prone to tsunamis coming from the Celebes Sea. Approximately 2/3 of Lake Buluan's area is covered by the province in the towns of Lutayan and President Quirino. There are 7 major rivers within the province: Alip, Allah, Kapingkong, Tran, Salaman, Palimbang and Kabulnan. Additionally, there are 23 large creeks and 11 major springs within the province.
Forestland constitutes majority of the province land use (50.32% ), followed by agricultural land (44.77%), fishing grounds (2.42%), non-agricultural land (1.16%), "other bodies of water" (1.02%), and fishponds (0.31%).
Five major soil types are found within the province, majority of which is classified as Mountain Soil (71%), followed by Sandy Loam (12.036%), Silty Clay Loam (4.880%), Clay Loam (4.612%) and Loamy Sand (0.185).
The climate of Sultan Kudarat falls under Type IV of Climate (characterized by rain showers or evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year). Heavy rainfall occurs from April to November. Unlike most other provinces in the country, Sultan Kudarat is generally free from typhoons as it is situated outside the "typhoon belt".
The average temperature is 35 °C (95 °F), with 38 °C (100 °F) as the average maximum normally occurring in March. The lowest recorded was 18 °C (64 °F) in the Kulaman area in December to early January.
Sultan Kudarat comprises 11 municipalities and 1 city. Three of the municipalities (Kalamansig, Lebak, and Palimbang) are coastal towns, while the rest of the province is located inland. The 11 municipalities and Tacurong City are further subdivided into 249 barangays.
Tacurong City is the smallest unit in the province by land area, but is the most urbanized and is considered the province's commercial center. Other growth centers are Lebak and Isulan, the latter being the provincial capital.
The population of Sultan Kudarat in the 2015 census was 812,095 people, with a density of 150 inhabitants per square kilometre or 390 inhabitants per square mile.
At the 2000 census, the province had a total population of 586,505 inhabitants, which grew to 747,087 in the 2010 census. About 113 ethnic groups were identified in the province in the 2000 Census. The Ilonggos, as well as the Karay-a, constitute the majority of the Christian population; their native languages are Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, which are the province's dominant languages. Other major languages in the province are Maguindanaon and Cebuano.
Aside from the Ilonggos and the Karay-a (Antiqueno) people, who settled in Sultan Kudarat around the 17th to 18th centuries, the other major ethnic groups are Cebuanos and Maguindanaons (who constitute the majority of the provincial Muslim population), as well as the Manobos, Tirurays and B'laans, the three autochthonous ethnic groups of the province. Ilocanos meanwhile, are relative newcomers to the province.
The four major religious groups in Sultan Kudarat are Roman Catholicism (55.95%), Islam (22.88%), Evangelical (7.20%), and Iglesia Ni Cristo (2.26%). Other Christian groups constitute most of the remainders such as the Seventh-day Adventists, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Jehovah's Witnesses, United Methodist Church, Southern Baptists, as well as "tribal religions".
The economy of Sultan Kudarat is predominantly agricultural. The leading crops produced in the province are rice, corn, coconuts, coffee, bananas, mangoes, durians and African palm. The province is self-sufficient in poultry, swine and root crops, and is one of the few producers of Irish potatoes in the Philippines. The southern Philippines Grain Complex in Tacurong is the largest grains-processing complex in the country. There are more than 200 rice mills in the province.
Fishing is an industry in the three coastal towns of the province (Kalamansig, Lebak and Palimbang). Tuna caught along the coasts along the Celebes Sea are exported to Japan and Europe.
Other economic activities include cottage industries, which include crafts made of rattan and other types of wood.
Metallic minerals, which include copper, gold and silver, are found within the mountainous areas of Isulan, Bagumbayan, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Palimbang and Columbio. Non-metallic minerals which include sand, gravel and marbleized limestone are also found in the province.
For the school year 2009–2010, the province has 475 schools (401 public and 74 private), 368 of which were elementary schools, 90 were secondary, and 17 were tertiary. Sultan Kudarat State University is the only public tertiary school within the province, with its main campus at Tacurong City. Its other campuses are situated in Bagumbayan, Isulan, Kalamansig, Lutayan, Palimbang, and Senator Ninoy Aquino.
In 2010, Sultan Kudarat had 27 hospitals (5 government-owned, 22 private and 1 mobile hospital), which are classified into 17 primary (6-25 beds capacity), 8 secondary (25-100 beds capacity) and 2 tertiary (over 100 beds capacity). Tacurong had the most number of hospitals in the province with 11, followed by Isulan with 5.
As of 2010, the provincial road network spanned a total length of 3,749.5813 kilometres (2,329.8818 mi) of which 49.26% were barangay roads, 27.97% provincial roads, 13.51% municipal/city roads and 9.25% national roads. Bagumbayan had the longest road network at 516.789 kilometres (321.118 mi), while Lutayan had the shortest at 107.38 kilometres (66.72 mi).
Sultan Kudarat has two seaports: the Port of Lebak in Kalamansig and the San Roque Port in Palimbang, and four airports (2 government-owned: Lebak Municipal Airport and President Quirino Airport, and 2 privately owned: Kalamansig Airport and Kenram Airport).
The former governors who have administered the province are:
Festivals celebrated within the province include: