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Editors: Timothy L. Gall , Susan Bevan Gall , and Derek M. Gleason
Date: 2012
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Country overview
Length: 5,180 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1120L

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Capital: Manila
Flag: The national flag consists of a white equilateral triangle at the hoist, with a blue stripe extending from its upper side and a red stripe extending from its lower side. Inside each angle of the triangle is a yellow five-pointed star, and in its center is a yellow sun with eight rays.
Anthem: Lupang Hinirang (Chosen Land).
Monetary Unit: The peso (pHP) is divided into 100 centavos. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos and 1 and 2 pesos, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 pesos. pHP1 = US$0.0231 (or US$1 = pHP43.51) as of 2011.
Weights and Measures: The metric system is the legal standard, but some local measures also are used.
Holidays: New Year's Day, 1 January; Freedom Day, 25 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Heroes' Day, 6 May; Independence Day (from Spain), 12 June; Thanksgiving, 21 September; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Bonifacio Day, 30 November; Christmas, 25 December; Rizal Day, 30 December; Last Day of the Year, 31 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Time: 8 p.m. = noon GMT.

Location and Size

The Republic of the Philippines consists of a group of 7,107 islands located southeast of mainland Asia and separated from it by the South China Sea. The total land area is approximately 300,000 square kilometers (115,830 square miles), 67 percent of which is contained within the two largest islands: Luzon, 108,171 square kilometers (41,765 square miles), and Mindanao, 99,078 square kilometers (38,254 square miles). Comparatively, the area occupied by the Philippines is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. The Philippines has a total coastline of 36,289 kilometers (22,549 miles).

The Philippines claims the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as do China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The Philippines' capital city, Manila, is located on the island of Luzon.


The land is extremely varied, with volcanic mountain masses forming the cores of most of the larger islands. Mount Apo, in Mindanao, is the highest point in the Philippines (elevation 2,954 meters/9,692 feet). A number of volcanoes are active, and the islands have been subject to destructive earthquakes. Lowlands are generally narrow coastal strips except for larger plains in Luzon and Mindanao, as well as on other islands.

Rivers are short and generally seasonal in flow. Important rivers are the Cagayan in Luzon and the Pulangi and Agusan in Mindanao. The longest river is The Agusan on Mindanao, with a length of 386 kilometers (240 miles). The largest lake is actually a lagoon, Laguna de Bay on Luzon, which covers an area of 922 square kilometers (356 square miles).


Except in the higher mountains, temperatures remain warm, the annual average ranging from about 23° to 32°C (73° to 90°F). The average annual rainfall in the Philippines ranges between 96 and 406 centimeters (38 and 160 inches). Annual normal relative humidity averages 80 percent. Violent tropical storms (baguios), or typhoons, are frequent.

Plants and Animals

The Philippines supports a rich and varied plant life with close botanical connections to Indonesia and mainland Southeast Asia. Forests cover almost one-half of the land area and are typically tropical. Open grasslands occupy one-fourth of the land area. The diverse plant life includes 8,931 species of flowering plants, 1,000 kinds of ferns, and 800 species of orchids.

The Philippines is home to 222 species of mammals. Common mammals include the wild hog, deer, wild carabao, monkey, civet cat, and various rodents. There are about 590 breeding species of birds, among the more numerous being the megapodes (turkey-like wildfowl), peacock pheasant, dove, pigeon, parrot, and hornbill. Reptilian life is represented by 274 species. There are crocodiles, and the larger snakes include the python and several varieties of cobra. There are also 110 species of amphibians.


Deforestation, with resulting soil erosion, is a major environmental problem. As of 2006, 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) were designated as protected land. Rising levels of air and water pollution in Manila and other urban areas are significant problems as well. Pollution has also damaged the coastal mangrove swamps, which serve as important fish breeding grounds. In 2008 annual carbon dioxide emissions were calculated at 70,858 kilotons.

Between the 1920s and 1990s, the Philippines lost 70 percent of its mangrove area. About 50 percent of its coral reefs are rated dead or dying as a result of pollution and dynamiting by fishermen. In 2012 only 4 percent of coral reefs were reported to be in "excellent" condition. The nation is also vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic activity. In April 2011, the capital city of Manila was shaken by 21 earthquakes reported in a 24-hour period. Such earthquakes were a sign of magma movement toward the center of Taal Volcano's surface. The volcano last erupted in 1977.

As of 2011, threatened species included 38 types of mammals, 74 species of birds, 38 types of reptiles, 48 species of amphibians, 71 species of fish, 3 types of mollusks, 210 species of other invertebrates, and 223 species of plants. Threatened species in the Philippines include the monkey-eating eagle, Philippine tarsier, four species of turtle, Philippines crocodile, and two species of butterfly. The cebu warty pig, Panay flying fox, and Chapman's fruit bat have become extinct.


Evidence of human habitation in the Philippines dates back some 250,000 years. In more recent times, the Philippine Islands are thought to have been settled by Negritos, who crossed then existing land bridges from Borneo and Sumatra some 30,000 years ago. These peoples were later outnumbered by waves of Malays who arrived from the south, at first by land and later on boats called barangays, a name also applied to their communities.

By the 14th century, Arab traders introduced Islam to the southern islands. Commercial and political ties also linked various parts of the island group with Indonesia, Southeast Asia, India, China, and Japan. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese-born navigator sailing for Spain, made the European discovery of the Philippines on 15 March 1521. The Spanish conquest of the islands was completed by 1571, made easier by the almost complete conversion of the natives to Christianity by that time. The Philippines, as a province of New Spain, was administered from Mexico.

The Struggle for Independence

Although Spain governed the islands until the end of the 19th century, its rule was constantly threatened by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the Chinese, and the Filipinos themselves.

Filipino aspirations for independence, suppressed by conservative Spanish rule, climaxed in the unsuccessful rebellion of 1896-98. José Rizal, the most revered Filipino patriot, was executed, but General Emilio Aguinaldo and his forces continued the war. During the Spanish-American War (1898), Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain on 12 June. When the war ended, the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. American rule replaced that of the Spanish, but Philippine nationalists continued to fight for independence.

Over the long term, the effect of American administration was to make the Philippines an arm of the U.S. economy, as a supplier of raw materials to and a buyer of finished goods from the American mainland. In the face of the continued nationalist drive for independence, the U.S. Congress passed a series of bills that ensured a degree of Philippine self-rule. The Tydings-McDuffie Independence Law of 1934 instituted commonwealth government and further called for complete independence in 1944.

World War II

On 8 December 1941 Japan invaded the Philippines, which then became the site of the most bitter and decisive battles fought in the Pacific during World War II (1939-45). By May 1942, the Japanese had achieved full possession of the islands. U.S. forces, led by General Douglas MacArthur, recaptured the Philippines in early 1945, following the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement in history. In September 1945 Japan surrendered.


On 4 July 1946, the Republic of the Philippines was inaugurated, with Manuel A. Roxas y Acuña as its first president. Both casualties and damage in the Philippines from World War II were extensive, and rehabilitation was the major problem of the new state. Communist guerrillas, called Hukbalahaps, were threatening the republic, and their revolutionary demands were countered by land reforms and military action.

In 1965 Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was elected president and reelected in 1969 by a record majority of 62 percent. Unable to run for a third term in 1973, President Marcos placed the entire country under martial law, charging that the nation was threatened by a "full-scale armed insurrection and rebellion." Marcos arrested many of his political opponents, some of whom remained in detention for years.

Throughout the 1970s, Marcos tightened his control of the government through purges of opponents, promotion of favorites, and delegation of leadership of several key programs—including the governorship of metropolitan Manila—to his wife, Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

Although Marcos made headway against the southern guerrillas, his human-rights abuses cost him the support of the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II came to Manila in February 1981 and protested the violation of basic human rights. In June 1981 Marcos was elected for a new six-year term as president under an amended constitution preserving most of the powers he had exercised under martial rule. In 1983 Benigno S. Aquino Jr., a long-time critic of Marcos, was shot at the Manila airport, which was later named in his honor. Aquino was assassinated as he returned from self-exile in the United States to lead the opposition in the 1984 legislative elections.

In 1985 political pressures were mounting on Marcos. He was forced to call for an election in February 1986. Later that month a military revolt grew into a popular rebellion that ousted the long-time leader. U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Marcos asylum, and Marcos went into exile in Hawaii.

After Marcos

On 25 February 1986, Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino, assumed the presidency. On 11 May 1987 she was elected in the first free elections in nearly two decades, held under a new constitution. On 20 December 1987 one of the worst ocean disasters in history occurred when an overcrowded passenger ship collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island and at least 1,500 people perished. On 28 September 1989 former President Ferdinand Marcos died in Honolulu. Aquino refused to allow him to be buried in the Philippines.

Under pressure from communist rebels, Aquino removed U.S. military bases from the Philippines in 1989. In September 1990 Aquino said it was time to consider an "orderly withdrawal" of U.S. forces from the Philippines. Within a year the Philippines was struck by three major natural disasters. In July 1990 an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck. The epicenter was 55 miles north of Manila, and more than 1,600 people were killed. A supertyphoon devastated the central islands in November 1990. An even more destructive natural disaster occurred on 12 June 1991, when Mount Pinatubo (in Zambales province near Olangapo), a volcano dormant for more than five hundred years, violently erupted. The Philippine economy suffered again in 1995, when a typhoon badly damaged the rice crop. The amount of rice lost that season was triple the amount lost from the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

On 30 June 1992 Fidel Ramos succeeded Corazon Aquino as president of the Philippines. Ramos, a Methodist and the Philippine's first non-Catholic president, considers the country's population growth rate an obstacle to development. Catholics protested the Ramos administration's birth control policies and the public health promotion of prophylactics, or condoms, to limit the spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Internal violence by the Muslim population continued in the 1980s and 1990s. In January 1994 the government signed a cease-fire agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front ending twenty years of guerrilla war. However, in January 1996, Philippine police uncovered a plot by Muslim terrorists to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila that month. Muslim rebels in Mindanao raided the town of Ipil in April 1996, killing 57 people and burning the business district.

Conflicting claims to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea are a source of tension between the Philippines and the People's Republic of China.

Arroyo Elected

In the 2001 presidential elections, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected the 14th president of the Philippines, replacing former president Joseph E. Estrada. Macapagal-Arroyo faced a sluggish economy upon coming into office. She pursued policies to privatize state-owned businesses, especially in agriculture and the power-generating industry.

The separatist conflict on Mindanao has claimed many lives in three decades. In March 2001 the 12,500-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) declared a cease-fire. However, on 11 February 2003 more than 2,000 government soldiers advanced toward an MILF base near Pikit. Approximately 135 MILF fighters were killed.

The militant Islamic group Abu Sayyaf ("Bearer of the Sword") is one of several guerrilla organizations involved in an increase in violence in the Philippines since 2000. It split off from the MILF in 1991 to pursue a more fundamentalist course against the government. One of its goals is an independent Islamic state in Mindanao, but its activities have been linked to international terrorism and the al-Qaeda network.

In addition to Abu Sayyaf, the Jemaah Islamiyah organization is believed to be training recruits in the southern Philippines.

The 2004 presidential elections were extremely close. Arroyo was able to retain the presidency with 40 percent of the vote. Arroyo was credited with increasing economic growth, although poverty and unemployment remain serious problems. The government continued to be plagued by charges of corruption. Trafficking of women and children was a prominent issue of concern.

In 2007 parliamentary and local elections were held. More than 120 people died in violence during the three-month campaign.

Former President Joseph Estrada, in detention for more than six years, was found guilty of illegally acquiring wealth while in office in 2007. He was sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison by a Philippine anticorruption court.

Benigno Aquino was victorious in the 2010 presidential election.


The rapid growth of the Philippine population has led to considerable internal migration. On Luzon, frontier-like settlements have pushed into the more remote areas. Mindoro and Palawan islands also have attracted numerous settlers, and hundreds of thousands of land-hungry Filipinos have relocated to less densely populated Mindanao. The net migration rate as of 2011 was -1.29 migrants per 1,000 citizens. In 2009, 8.6 million emigrants were estimated to be living abroad. The total number of immigrants living in the Philippines was 435,400.

Armed Forces

The active armed forces numbered 125,000 in 2011. The army had 86,000 personnel, the navy had a total of 24,000 members, and the air force had a strength of 15,000. Estimated defense expenditures in 2011 were $3 billion.

Under the constitution of 11 February 1987, the Philippines is a democratic republican state. Executive power is vested in a president elected by popular vote for a six-year term, with no eligibility for reelection. The president is assisted by a vice president, elected for a six-year term, with eligibility for one immediate reelection, and a cabinet, which can include the vice president.

Legislative power rests with a two-chamber legislature. The senate has 24 members elected for six-year terms. In 2011 the house had 287 members. There were 230 members in one tier and 57 in a second tier.

As of 2012 the Philippines was divided into 80 provinces and approximately 120 chartered cities.

Judicial System

Under the 1973 constitution, the Supreme Court, composed of a chief justice and 14 associate justices, was the highest judicial body of the state, with supervisory authority over the lower courts. The entire court system was modified in 1981, with the creation of new regional courts of trials and of appeals.

The Constitution calls for an independent judiciary, and defendants in criminal cases are afforded the right to counsel. The national court system consists of four levels. There are local and regional trial courts; a national Court of Appeals divided into 17 divisions; the 15-member Supreme Court; and an informal local system for mediating certain disputes outside the formal court system.

Political Parties

In the 2010 senate elections, the Lakas-CMD party, the Liberal Party (LP), and the Nacionalista Party (NP) each won four seats. No other party won more than two seats. In the house elections, the LP won 119 seats, Lakas-Kampi CMD won 46 seats, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) won 30 seats, and the NP won 22 seats. The remaining seats were won by other parties or independents.

Aquino won presidential elections in 2010.

Tourism and Recreation

In 2009, about 3 million tourists arrived in the Philippines. More than 1.6 million of those tourists arrived from East Asia and the Pacific. Revenues from tourism totaled $2.8 billion. There were 43,024 hotel beds and a 65 percent occupancy rate.

Manila remains the chief tourist attraction. Other points of interest are the 2,000-year-old rice terraces north of Baguio; Vigan, the old Spanish capital; Cebu, the oldest city; numerous beaches and mountain wilderness areas; and homes formerly owned by the Marcos family.

Basketball is the national sport, followed in popularity by baseball and soccer. Jai alai is popular in Manila and Cebu. Cockfighting is legal and often televised.

Social Development

The government social program includes the settlement of landless families in new areas; building of rural roads, schools, and medical clinics; and the distribution of relief supplies to the needy.

The Social Security System's benefits include compensation for confinement due to injury or illness, pensions for temporary incapacity, insurance payments to families in case of death, old age pensions, and benefits to widows and orphans.

A medical care plan provides hospital, surgical, medicinal, and medical-expense benefits to members and their dependents, as well as paid maternity leave.

Most women occupy traditional social roles and occupations. Women on average earn less than men. Most, but not all, of the legal rights enjoyed by men are extended to women.

Ethnic Groups

Filipinos of Malay (Malayan and Indonesian) stock constitute about 95.5 percent of the total population. They are divided into nine main ethnic groups: Tagalog, Ilocanos, Pampanguenos, Pangasinans, Bicolanos, Cebuanos, Boholanos, Ilongos, and the Waray-Waray. There are small groups of Chinese and Muslims. Numerous smaller ethnic groups inhabit the interior of the islands, including the Igorot of Luzon and the Bukidnon, Manobo, and Tiruray of Mindanao.


There are two official languages: Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English. Spanish is now spoken by only a small minority of the population. More than 80 indigenous languages and dialects are spoken. Besides Tagalog, which is spoken around Manila, the principal languages include Cebuano (spoken in the Visayas), Ilocano (spoken in northern Luzon), and Panay-Hiligaynon. The teaching of Filipino is mandatory in public and private primary schools, and its use is encouraged by the government.


About 80 to 85 percent of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Other Christian churches represent about 8 percent of the population. There are three churches established by Filipino religious leaders, the Independent Church of the Philippines (or Aglipayan), the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), and the Ang Dating Daan (an offshoot of the Church of Christ). Muslims represent 5 to 9 percent of the population and are commonly called Moros by non-Muslims. They are concentrated in Mindanao and the Sulus. Most Muslims are Sunni. Buddhists, Baha'is, Chinese folk religionists, and tribal religionists constitute the remaining 1 percent. There are also small communities of Hindus and Jews.


The total length of roadways is 213,151 kilometers (132,446 miles), of which 54,481 kilometers (33,853 miles) are paved. Water transportation is of great importance for inter-island and intra-island transportation. Manila is the busiest Philippine port in international shipping, followed by Cebu and Iloilo.

There are 254 airports, which served 10 million passengers in 2009. Philippine Air Lines (PAL), the national airline, provides domestic and international flights. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the principal international air terminal.

Famous Filipinos

Filipinos have made their most important marks in the political arena. Foremost are José Rizal (1861-1896), a distinguished novelist, poet, physician, linguist, statesman, and national hero; and Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (1869-1964), the commander of the revolutionary forces and president of the revolutionary First Philippine Republic (1899).

Notable Filipinos of the 20th century include Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina (1878-1944), the first Commonwealth president; Ramón Magsaysay (1907-1957), a distinguished leader in the struggle with the Hukbalahap communist rebels; and Carlos Peña Rómulo (1899-1985), a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, diplomat, and president of the fourth United Nations General Assembly.

Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (1917-1989), who won distinction as a guerrilla fighter during the Japanese occupation, was the dominant political figure in the Philippines from his first election to the presidency in November 1965 to his removal in February 1986. His wife, Imelda Romualdez Marcos (b.1930), emerged as a powerful force within her husband's government during the 1970s.

Leading critics of the Marcos government during the late 1970s and early 1980s were Benigno S. Aquino Jr. (1933-1983) and Jaime Sin (1928-2005) who became the archbishop of Manila in 1974 and a cardinal in 1976.

Maria Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1933-2009), the widow of Benigno, opposed Marcos for the presidency in February 1986 and took office when he went into exile in the same month.

Lorenzo Ruiz of the 17th century was canonized, along with 15 companion martyrs, as the first Filipino saint. Fernando M. Guerrero (1873-1929) was the greatest Philippine poet in Spanish. Two painters of note were Juan Luna y Novicio (1857-1899) and Félix Resurrección Hidalgo y Padilla (1853-1913).

Writers who have won recognition include Claro M. Recto (1890-1960), José García Villa (1914-1997), and Carlos Bulosan (1914-1956). José A. Estella (1870-1945) is the best-known Filipino composer. Filipino prizefighters have included two world champions, Pancho Villa (Francisco Guilledo, 1901-1925) and Ceferino García (1910-1981).


Education is free and compulsory in the primary schools. In 2008 government expenditure on education was 2.8 percent of GDP. English is the main language of instruction, although Filipino or the local vernacular is used for instruction in the lower primary grades. In 2008, 92 percent of age-eligible children were enrolled in primary school. Only 61 percent of those eligible enrolled in secondary school.

The University of the Philippines, in Quezon City, with branches in major islands, is the leading institution of higher learning. In addition, there are some 50 other universities, including the University of Santo Tomás, founded in 1611 and run by the Dominican friars.

According to the 2000 census, the adult literacy rate was about 92.6 percent.


Life expectancy in the Philippines was 73 years as of 2011. That year, 3.7 percent of GDP was spent on healthcare. In 2007 there were an estimated 12 physicians, 60 nurses and midwives, and 5 hospital beds per every 10,000 people. Pulmonary infections (tuberculosis, pneumonia, bronchitis) were prevalent. Malnutrition remained a significant health problem. The infant mortality rate was 19 per 1,000 live births. In 2009 an estimated 0.1 percent of adults were living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 88 percent of children were vaccinated against measles.


Tens of thousands of barrios (neighborhood districts) are scattered throughout the Philippines, each consisting of a double row of small cottages strung out along a single road. Each cottage is generally built on stilts and has a thatched roof, veranda, and small yard. According to the 2000 census, there were 15,278,808 households, with an average of five people per household. About 75,000 new residential construction projects were undertaken in 2011.


The 2011 estimated population was 102 million, with a projected population of 118 million by 2025. The average population density was calculated at 339 persons per square kilometer (882 per square mile).

An estimated 49 percent of the population lived in urban areas. Manila had a 2011 population of 11 million. (The metropolitan area includes four cities: Manila proper, Quezon City, Caloocan City, and Pasay City, and 13 surrounding municipalities.) Other major cities include Davao, Cebu, Zamboanga, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, and Iloilo.


As of 2009, there were some 6.8 million main phone lines and 81 cell phone subscriptions per 100 people. Radio and television are operated by both government agencies and private concerns. In 2011 there were 381 AM and 628 FM radio stations, plus 4 shortwave radio stations. There were also more than 300 television broadcast stations. In 2010 the country had 394,990 Internet hosts.

In 2010 there were about 50 major daily newspapers. These papers include People Tonight (circulation 500,000); Abante (350,000); and Bagong Taliba (508,000).


About 40 percent of the total land area is farmed; however, roughly 30 percent of agricultural land is suffering from erosion. Roughly half of the cultivated land is devoted to the two principal subsistence crops—palay (unhusked rice) and corn. Other crops include peanut, mango, cassava (an edible root), eggplant, rubber, and cotton. In 2009 cereal production was estimated at 23 million tons, fruit production at 16 million tons, and vegetable production at 6 million tons.

Commercial agriculture focuses on coconuts and copra (dried coconut meat), sugarcane, tobacco, bananas, and pineapples. Coconuts are the most important export crop, accounting for 26 percent of world production. In 2011, 1.5 billion tons of coconut oil was produced, and 2.6 million tons of copra were processed. Sugarcane production was 1.9 million tons the same year. Also, pineapple production rose to 1.7 million tons.

Domesticated Animals

About 1.5 million hectares (3.71 million acres) were pastureland as of 2009. The carabao, or water buffalo, is the principal work animal, particularly in the rice paddies. Hogs are the chief meat animals (except in Muslim sections). The Philippines is self-sufficient in pork and poultry, but imports of beef and dairy products are still necessary.

Meat production in 2009 included 1.7 million tons of pork, 732,793 tons of chicken, 500,926 tons of eggs, and 350,679 tons of cattle beef. Other products included 1.6 million tons of milk and 16,160 tons of cattle hide.

Energy and Power

Domestic oil production was 32,945 barrels per day in 2008. Roughly 57 percent of energy was derived from fossil fuels, while 25 percent came from alternative fuels. Philippine government has developed an alternative energy program, which includes the use of "alcogas" (gasohol) and "cocodiesel" (coconut oil in diesel fuels). Total electrical output in 2008 was 61 billion kilowatt hours; consumption was 53 billion kilowatt hours. The Philippines is the world's second-largest producer of geothermal energy.


Fish is the primary source of protein in the Filipino diet. About 2,000 species can be found in Philippine waters; however, the fishing industry remains relatively undeveloped, and large quantities of fish are imported. In 2008 the total domestic fish catch was 2.7 million tons. The most important species are sardines, roundscad, frigate tuna, anchovies, milkfish, and tilapia. Subsistence fishing is conducted throughout the islands. Pearl shells (including cultured pearls), sponges, sea cucumbers (trepang), shark fins, and sea turtles are exported. The value of exported seafood goods in 2008 totaled about $348 million.


Forests are an important economic resource in the Philippines. Roundwood production in 2009 was estimated at 3.8 million cubic meters (134 million cubic feet). Among other forest products are bamboo, rattan, resins, tannin, and firewood.


The Philippines reportedly has the world's largest source of refractory chromite and substantial resources of copper, gold, nickel, and silver. Copper was the leading mineral, with 21,235 tons produced in 2008. In 2008 mined chromite totaled 15,268 tons. In 2009, mining of other metals totaled 37,047 kilograms (81, 675 pounds) of gold and 27,000 tons of nickel. Silver production totaled 34 tons in 2009. The Philippines also produced lime, marine salt, silica sand, stone, and sulfur.


The Philippines is primarily an agricultural nation, raising crops for domestic use and export. It is the world's largest producer of coconuts and manila hemp (abacá). Manufacturing, which has expanded and diversified since political independence, depends on imported raw materials. Mining, once centered on gold, is now diversified, with chromite, copper, and iron providing important earnings. The economy is heavily dependent on foreign trade.

The Philippines has potential as a tourist destination. However, since the early 1990s the tourist industry has suffered setbacks. These include natural disasters, high fuel costs, and political difficulties, particularly with the emergence of the Abu Sayyaf Islamic fundamentalist group. Roughly 3 million tourists traveled annually to the Philippines in 2011.

The National Capital Region (NCR), centered on Manila, contains 14 percent of the population and produces one-third of GDP. Income per person in the NCR, the richest region of the country, is about nine times that of the poorest region.

As of 2011 inefficiency in tax collection, the unequal distribution of wealth, and unemployment were major economic challenges.


In 2010 the Philippines's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $351 billion, or about $3,500 per person. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 7.3 percent. An estimated 14 percent of GDP came from agriculture, 31 percent from industry, and 55 percent from services. The average inflation rate in 2007 was 2.8 percent.


Exports of electronics first surpassed food products and textiles in value in the late 1990s, as the government sought to shift from an economy based on agricultural produce and sweatshop factory output to an economy anchored by the assembly of computer chips and other electronic goods.

As of 2011 the leading industries were electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining, and fishing. Industry accounted for 33 percent of GDP in 2010. The industrial production growth rate was 6 percent in 2011.


The employed labor force was estimated at 39 million in 2010. As of 2010, about 33 percent were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 15 percent in industry; and 52 percent in the service sector. In 2010, the unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, and the underemployment rate was estimated at 19.1 percent.

In 2011 the average minimum wage for non-agricultural workers ranged from $5.00 to $9.85 per day. Minimum wage for agricultural workers ranged from $4.50 to $9.00 per day. However, about one-fifth of businesses pay less than the minimum wage.

In 2008, there were 17,305 unions, but only 1,456 had collective bargaining agreements. Strikes are prohibited in essential services such as transportation, communications, and health care.

The law prohibits employment of children under the age of 15, although children even younger may work under the supervision of a parent or guardian. Despite the law, many children are employed in hazardous jobs, or under unacceptable conditions.

Foreign Trade

The United States and Japan are the Philippines' primary trading partners. Also important are Singapore, Netherlands, China, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Germany, Thailand, and South Korea. In 2011 imports totaled $68.8 billion. Top import products are semi-processed raw materials, parts for the manufacture of electronic equipment, mineral fuels/lubricants and related materials, machinery, base metals and metal products, and transport equipment. Some of the top export products were semiconductors and electronic microcircuits, garments, crude coconut oil, and petroleum products. Exports totaled $54.2 billion in 2011.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ2171600018