Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine
Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 122 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
total: 300,000 sq km
land: 298,170 sq km
water: 1,830 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Arizona
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 36,289 km
Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nm
from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also
claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nm in
Climate: tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to
April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Terrain: mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal
lowest point: Philippine Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Apo 2,954 m
Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver,
gold, salt, copper
arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 12%
permanent pastures: 4%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 19% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 15,800 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: astride typhoon belt, usually affected
by 15 and struck by five to six cyclonic storms per year; landslides;
active volcanoes; destructive earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment - current issues: uncontrolled deforestation
in watershed areas; soil erosion; air and water pollution in Manila;
increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps which are important
fish breeding grounds
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species,
Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban,
Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94,
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol,
The Philippines consists of 7107 islands in Southeast Asia, with
only 2000 of them inhabited. To its north is Taiwan, while on its
Southwest is Eastern Malaysia and Brunei, and Indonesia is to its
The populated, mountainous islands are divided into four groups.
Luzon is the largest and northernmost island whereas to the south
is Mindanao, the second largest island. Together, Luzon and Mindanao
account for 65% of the land mass.
About two-thirds of the population make their living from fishing,
agriculture, and forestry. Most of the country's rain forests are
lost due to tree-felling and slash-and-burn agriculture.
The country has a volcanic topography, with eighteen of its 37 volcanoes
active. Almost 900 people were killed and thousands more lost their
homes when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991. It is also subjected
to earthquakes because of its frequent seismic activity.
The Philippines has a tropical marine climate with relatively high
humidity year-round, mild temperature and abundant rainfall. There
are three main seasons - the wet season (June to October), the cool
dry season (November to February) and the hot dry season (March
The average annual temperature is 25°C (77°F). The northeast monsoon
is from November to April while the southwest monsoon happens from
May to October.
Philippines is an island country in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
Its official name is the Republic of the Philippines.
The Philippines consist
of about 7,100 islands and islets, many of which are so small that
they have no name. The islands lie in the tropics, about 100 kilometres
from the coast of mainland Asia. They have a total area of 300,000
The two largest islands,
Luzon and Mindanao, make up about two-thirds of the total area.
Most of the land is mountainous, and volcanoes are dotted throughout
the country. Most settlements are on the plains between the mountains
and along the coasts.
The busy port of
Manila, on Luzon, is the capital and largest city. Its metropolitan
area contains about a tenth of the country's population.
The Philippines were ceded by Spain to the US in 1898 following
the Spanish-American War. They attained their independence in 1946
after being occupied by the Japanese in World War II.
The 21-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986 when a widespread
popular rebellion forced him into exile. In 1992, the US closed
down its last military bases on the islands.
A quarter-century-old guerrilla war with Muslim separatists on the
island of Mindanao, which had claimed 120,000 lives, ended with
a treaty in 1996.
Location and Size: Archipelago off coast of Southeast
Asia, total 300,000 square kilometers, land area 298,170 square
Topography: Archipelago of 7,100 islands: Luzon,
Mindanao, Palawan, and numerous smaller islands, all prone to earthquakes.
Largely mountainous terrain, creating narrow coastal plains and
interior valleys and plains. Major plains include those of Central
Luzon, northeastern Cagayan Valley, and Agusan Basin in far south.
Numerous dormant and active volcanos, notably Mount Pinatubo in
Central Luzon. Highest point Mount Apo (2,954 meters).
Climate: Tropical marine; northeast monsoon (December
to February), southwest monsoon (May to October). Mean annual sea-level
temperatures rarely fall below 27° C. Frequent typhoons.
Data as of June 1991
The Philippine archipelago lies in Southeast Asia in a position
that has led to its becoming a cultural crossroads, a place where
Malays, Chinese, Spaniards, Americans, and others have interacted
to forge that unique cultural and racial blend known to the world
as Filipino. The archipelago numbers some 7,100 islands and the
nation claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ--
) of 200 nautical miles from its shores. The Philippines occupies
an area that stretches for 1,850 kilometers from about the fifth
to the twentieth parallels north latitude. The total land area is
almost 300,000 square kilometers. Only approximately 1,000 of its
islands are populated, and fewer than one-half of these are larger
than 2.5 square kilometers. Eleven islands make up 94 percent of
the Philippine landmass, and two of these--Luzon and Mindanao--measure
105,000 and 95,000 square kilometers, respectively. They, together
with the cluster of the Visayan Islands that separate them, represent
the three principal regions of the archipelago that are identified
by the three stars on the Philippine flag. Topographically, the
Philippines is broken up by the sea, which gives it one of the longest
coastlines of any nation in the world . Most Filipinos live on or
near the coast, where they can easily supplement their diet from
approximately 2,000 species of fish.
Off the coast of eastern Mindanao is the Philippine Trough, which
descends to a depth of 10,430 meters. The Philippines is part of
a western Pacific arc system that is characterized by active volcanoes.
Among the most notable peaks are Mount Mayon near Legaspi, Taal
Volcano south of Manila, and Mount Apo on Mindanao. All of the Philippines
islands are prone to earthquakes. The northern Luzon highlands,
or Cordillera Central, rise to between 2,500 and 2,750 meters, and,
together with the Sierra Madre in the northeastern portion of Luzon
and the mountains of Mindanao, boast rain forests that provide refuge
for numerous upland tribal groups. The rain forests also offer prime
habitat for more than 500 species of birds, including the Philippine
eagle (or monkey-eating eagle), some 800 species of orchids, and
some 8,500 species of flowering plants.
The country's most extensive river systems are the Pulangi (Rio
Grande), which flows into the Mindanao River; the Agusan, in Mindanao
which flows north into the Mindanao Sea; the Cagayan in northern
Luzon; and the Pampanga, which flows south from eastCentral Luzon
into Manila Bay. Laguna de Bay, southeast of Manila Bay, is the
largest freshwater lake in the Philippines. Several rivers have
been harnessed for hydroelectric power.
Data as of June 1991
The Philippines has a tropical marine climate dominated by a rainy
season and a dry season. The summer monsoon brings heavy rains to
most of the archipelago from May to October, whereas the winter
monsoon brings cooler and drier air from December to February. Manila
and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May.
Even at this time, however, temperatures rarely rise above 37°
C. Mean annual sea-level temperatures rarely fall below 27°
C. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters in the
mountainous east coast section of the country, but less than 1,000
millimeters in some of the sheltered valleys.
Monsoon rains, although hard and drenching, are not normally associated
with high winds and waves. But the Philippines does sit astride
the typhoon belt, and it suffers an annual onslaught of dangerous
storms from July through October. These are especially hazardous
for northern and eastern Luzon and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas
regions, but Manila gets devastated periodically as well.
In the last decade, the Philippines has suffered severely from
natural disasters. In 1990 alone, Central Luzon was hit by both
a drought, which sharply curtailed hydroelectric power, and by a
typhoon that flooded practically all of Manila's streets. Still
more damaging was an earthquake that devastated a wide area in Luzon,
including Baguio and other northern areas. The city of Cebu and
nearby areas were struck by a typhoon that killed more than a hundred
people, sank vessels, destroyed part of the sugar crop, and cut
off water and electricity for several days.
Building construction is undertaken with natural disasters in mind.
Most rural housing has consisted of nipa huts that are easily damaged
but are inexpensive and easy to replace. Most urban buildings are
steel and concrete structures designed (not always successfully)
to resist both typhoons and earthquakes. Damage is still significant,
however, and many people are displaced each year by typhoons, earthquakes,
and other natural disasters. In 1987 alone the Department of Social
Welfare and Development helped 2.4 million victims of natural disasters.
Data as of June 1991