The region has extensive coastlines, valleys and mountain ranges. Known for its river system, the region is the catch basin of Mindanao. The system is a rich source of food, potable water and energy production. Cotabato contains the Rio Grande de Mindanao, which is the longest river in Mindanao and the second longest in the Philippines.
Region XII was previously called Central Mindanao and originally included the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao. The creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 1990 left Central Mindanao with only Lanao del Norte, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato. Then, on September 19, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Executive Order No. 36 reorganized the regions and provinces in Mindanao. This moved changed Region XII into the present SOCCSKSARGEN.