Positioned on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, along the Ring of Fire, the Philippines is the second-largest archipelago on the planet, with over 7,100 individual islands counted within its borders.
For hundreds of years the Philippines were a Spanish colony, but then were ceded to the U.S. in 1898, following the Spanish-American War.
One of the main focal points of battles between Japan and the U.S. during World War II, at the end of that war (in 1946) with the U.S. victory in the South Pacific, the Philippines attained total independence.
The dictatorial government of Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986, and since then, a long parade of electoral presidential problems and internal struggles have continued.
In addition, Abu Sayyaf, an armed Muslim insurgency group operating in the south, has collectively plagued the country for many years, and is now causing serious disruptions, especially in western tourism visits.
In 1992, after many years of negotiations, the U.S. finally closed its last military bases on the islands, and (in the view of many), the Philippines lost much needed revenue from that action.
And speaking of problems, the Philippines has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. At the current rate of deforestation it’s been estimated that the country�s virgin forests are in danger of disappearing by 2010.
Tourism has never been a major industry in the Philippines, although Manila, beaches and resorts on some of the smaller islands, as well as rain forest tours remain popular.
Facts and Figures
(long form) Republic of the Philippines
Population & Density (all countries)
Capital City Manila (10.8) metro (14.9 mil)
Currency Philippine Peso (PHP)
Languages Filipino (official), English (official)
National Day June 12
Religions Catholic (81%), Muslim (5%), Christian (5%), and others
Latitude/Longitude (Capital City)
14� 37′ N, 120� 58′ E
Relative Location The Philippines are located in both the northern and eastern hemispheres.Positioned off the southeastern coast of Asia, directly east of Vietnam and northeast of Malaysia, this island nation is literally surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and many smaller bodies of water including the Philippine Sea, Celebes Sea, Sula Sea and South China Sea.
Coastline 22,549 miles (36,289 km)
(land) 115,831 sq miles (300,000 sq km)
(water) 707 sq miles (1,830 sq km)
(TOTAL) 115,124 sq miles (298,170 sq km)
Land Area (all countries)
Landforms The Philippine islands, positioned on the Ring of Fire, are subject to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The Mayon Volcano is the most active in the Philippines, and considered one of the most dangerous on the planet, however, it does not stand alone; in 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted, and proved to be one of the most significant volcanic eruptions in recorded history.
Extending about 1,100 miles (north to south), its many islands (volcanic in origin) are mostly mountainous, with narrow coastal plains; many islands are covered by tropical rain forests. Luzon is the largest island, followed by Mindanao, and both have numerous volcanoes.
The longest river is the Cagayan (R�o Grande de Cagayan) on Luzon, 217 miles, (350 km) long. Other significant rivers (on Luzon) include the Abra, Bicol, Chico, and Pampanga. On Mindanao, important rivers include the Mindanao River and the Agusan.
Laguna de Bay, just southeast of Manila, is the largest lake of the Philippines. Lake Taal, also south of Manila, occupies a huge volcanic crater and contains an island that is itself a volcano. Lake Lanao is the largest lake of Mindanao and the source of the Agusan River.
Highest Point Mt. Apo – 9,692 ft. (2,954 m)
Lowest Point Philippine Sea – (0 ft.) (0 m)
Land Divisions 79 provinces and 115 chartered cities. Provinces include: Abra, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Aklan, Albay, Antique, Apayao, Aurora, Basilan, Bataan, Batanes, Batangas, Biliran, Benguet, Bohol, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Cagayan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cavite, Cebu, Compostela, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, Isabela, Kalinga, Laguna, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, La Union, Leyte, Maguindanao, Marinduque, Masbate, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Mountain, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, North Cotabato, Northern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Quezon, Quirino, Rizal, Romblon, Samar, Sarangani, Siquijor, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Southern Leyte, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Tarlac, Tawi-Tawi, Zambales, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.