VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte makes erroneous claim on Davao City’s size

While recalling his experience in dealing with disasters as former Davao City mayor, President Rodrigo Duterte mistakenly claimed that Davao City is the “biggest” city in the world.


In a Nov. 15 briefing in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses, the president, who served as Davao City mayor from 1988 to 1996 and 2001 to 2016, or a total of 22 years and four months, said:

Ang Davao kasi malawak (Davao is a vast [city]). On the other side, on the south side, if you had a flood, ‘yung ulan doon lang (the rain stays there). (I)n the downtown area, there was none at all. Pagdating sa (When you get to the) north side, ayon ‘yung baha tapos ulan (there is flooding and rain).”

Duterte then said:

“So ganoon kalaki ang (So that’s how big [it is,]) Davao City, reputed — reputedly the biggest city in the world and I would agree. Hindi mo ma-ano na kalaki, noong umulan dito, may baha doon (You can’t — because it’s big, if it rains [in one area], there is flooding there). [But] It does not cover the entire place.”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Situation Briefing on the effects of Typhoon Ulysses presided over by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Nov. 15, 2020, watch from 25:43 to 26:23


Duterte is wrong. Based on land area, at least one city in Asia alone outsizes Davao City, which has a total land area of 2,443.61 square kilometers, according to the 2015 census of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Shanghai City in China has a recorded total land area of 6,340.5 square kilometers — almost three times the size of Davao City, according to data from the Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau released in 2019.

The same wrong claim — describing Davao City as “reputedly the largest city in the world” — is also found on the website of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) – Region XI as early as July 2015.

In the Philippines, however, Davao City remains the biggest. This is followed by Puerto Princesa City with a total land area of 2,381.02 square kilometers, Zamboanga City with 1,414.70 square kilometers, and Ilagan City with 1,166.26 square kilometers total land area, based on PSA data.

Typhoon Ulysses made its first landfall in Patnanungan, Quezon Province on the night of Nov. 11. The storm razed Regions I through V, and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the National Capital Region (NCR) for a day, affecting 3.7 million people across Luzon.

Based on the latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the typhoon left in its wake a total of P10-billion worth of damages to agricultural crops and infrastructure in the affected regions.



Presidential Communications Operations Office Official Facebook Account, Situation Briefing on the effects of Typhoon Ulysses presided over by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Nov. 15, 2020

VERA Files, VERA FILES FACT CHECK: How long did Duterte serve as Davao City mayor?, Dec. 10, 2016

Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015 Census of Population, Aug. 2016

Shanghai City Government Official Website, Shanghai Basic Facts, Accessed Nov. 20, 2020

National Economic and Development Authority, Davao City, Accessed Nov. 16, 2020

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Official Website, Situation Report No. 10 for Typhoon Ulysses, Nov. 20, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)