To understand the interrelationship between sustainability, education and health in an urban context in the Philippines, this study examines emerging patterns of neighbourhood distribution in Batangas City, a regional city located at the western side of Luzon island.

Shifting the focus from a general discussion of sustainable cities to the development of sustainable neighbourhoods, it investigates the social, economic and physical structures that characterise – and divide – Batangas.

Key findings:
  • The centre of Batangas has become the most densely populated area of the city, although the population has started to expand outwards in recent years. From 1990 to 2015, Batangas city’s overall population increased by an average of 2% annually, yet built-up areas, mostly in the north, expanded by 9%.
  • The socio-spatial structure of Batangas City is shaped by factors such as geophysical features, the presence (or not) of economic activities and opportunities, infrastructure networks and local spatial policies.
  • A north–south divide exists in terms of socioeconomic development. The northern part of Batangas, where the built-up commercial and cultural centre is located, is starkly different to the southern area of the city, which – due to its location and environment – has continued to subsist mainly on agriculture, has a lower population density and has significant dispersal of settlements.
  • The spatial distribution of neighbourhoods has varied effects in terms of health, education and sustainable development. Physical proximity to services is not enough to propel neighbourhoods towards sustainable development – access needs to be understood as being multifaceted.
  • Barangays – the smallest political and administrative unit in the Philippines – tend not to completely capture the nuances, functionalities and even boundaries of neighbourhoods (kapitbahayan) in Batangas. A novel way of approaching kapitbahayan that is underpinned by ‘lived understanding’ of neighbourhoods can provide a new perspective on the attainment of good health, well-being and quality education for the population of Batangas.