Geography of the Philippines

Learn About the Southeast Asian Nation

Chocolate Hills, Carmen City, Bohol Island, Philippines

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Population: 99,900,177 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Manila
Area: 115,830 square miles (300,000 sq km)
Coastline: 22,549 miles (36,289 km)
Highest Point: Mount Apo at 9,691 feet (2,954 m)

The Philippines, officially called the Republic of the Philippines, is an island nation located in the western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. The country is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands and is near the countries of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Philippines has a population of just over 99 million people and it is the 12th largest country in the world.

History of the Philippines

In 1521, European exploration of the Philippines began when Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands for Spain. He was killed shortly thereafter however after getting involved in tribal warfare on the islands. During the rest of the 16th century and into the 17th and 18th centuries, Christianity was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish conquistadores.

During this time, the Philippines were also under the administrative control of Spanish North America and as a result, there was migration between the two areas. In 1810 though, Mexico claimed its independence from Spain and control of the Philippines went back to Spain. During Spanish rule, Roman Catholicism increased in the Philippines and a complex government was established in Manila.

In the 19th century, there were numerous uprisings against Spanish control by the local population of the Philippines. For example, in 1896, Emilio Aguinaldo led a revolt against Spain. The revolt continued until 1898 when American forces defeated the Spanish at Manila Bay in May of that year during the Spanish-American War. After the defeat, Aguinaldo and the Philippines declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. Shortly thereafter, the islands were ceded to the United States with the Treaty of Paris.

From 1899 to 1902, the Philippine-American War took place as Filipinos fought against American control of the Philippines.

On July 4, 1902, a Peace Proclamation ended the war but hostilities continued until 1913.

In 1935, the Philippines then became a self-governing commonwealth after the Tydings-McDuffie Act. During World War II, however, the Philippines were attacked by Japan and in 1942, the islands came under Japanese control. Beginning in 1944, full-scale fighting began in the Philippines in an effort to end Japanese control. In 1945, Filipino and American forces caused Japan to surrender, but the city of Manila was largely destroyed and over one million Filipinos were killed.

On July 4, 1946, the Philippines then became fully independent as the Republic of the Philippines. Following its independence, the Philippines struggled to gain political and social stability until the 1980s. During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the Philippines began to regain stability and grow economically despite some political conspiracies in the early 2000s.

Government of the Philippines

Today the Philippines is considered a republic with an executive branch made up of a chief of state and a head of government - both of which are filled by the president. The legislative branch of government is made up of a bicameral Congress that consists of a Senate and House of Representatives. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Sandigan-bayan. The Philippines are divided into 80 provinces and 120 charter cities for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in the Philippines

Today, the economy of the Philippines is growing due to its rich natural resources, workers overseas and imported products. The largest industries in the Philippines include electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining , and fishing. Agriculture also plays a large role in the Philippines and the main products are sugarcane, coconuts, rice, corn, bananas, cassava, pineapples, mangoes, pork, eggs, beef, and fish.

Geography and Climate of the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago comprised of 7,107 islands in the South China, Philippine, Sulu, and Celebes Seas and the Luzon Strait. The topography of the islands is mostly mountainous with narrow to large coastal lowlands depending on the island. The Philippines is divided into three main geographic areas: these are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The climate of the Philippines is tropical marine with a northeast monsoon from November to April and a southwest monsoon from May to October.

In addition, the Philippines, like many other tropical island nations has problems of deforestation, and soil and water pollution. The Philippines also has problems of air pollution because of large populations in its urban centers.

More Facts About the Philippines

  • Filipino is the official national language while English is the official language of government and education
  • Life expectancy in the Philippines is 67.6 years
  • Other large cities in the Philippines include Davao City and Cebu City


Central Intelligence Agency. (7 July 2010). CIA - The World Factbook - Philippines. (n.d.). Philippines: History, Geography, Government, and Culture -

United States Department of State. (19 April 2010). Philippines.

Wikipedia. (22 July 2010). Philippines - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia