The Philippines: Geography and Fact Sheet

Learn About the Southeast Asian Nation

Chocolate Hills, Carmen City, Bohol Island, Philippines

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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. As of 2018, the Philippines had a population of roughly 108 million people and was the 13th most populous country in the world.

Fast Facts: The Philippines

  • Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
  • Capital: Manila
  • Population: roughly 108,000,000 (2019)
  • Official Languages: Filipino and English
  • Currency: Philippine pesos (PHP)
  • Form of Government: Presidential republic
  • Climate: Tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
  • Total Area: 115,831 square miles (300,000 square kilometers) 
  • Highest Point: Mount Apo 9,692 feet (2,954 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Philippine Sea 0 feet (0 meters)

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. As a result, there was migration between the two areas. In 1810, 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 May 1898, when American forces defeated the Spanish at Manila Bay 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 became a self-governing commonwealth after the Tydings-McDuffie Act. During World War II, the Philippines were attacked by Japan. 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 became fully independent as the Republic of the Philippines. Following its independence, the Republic of 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 Sandiganbayan, a special appellate anti-graft court set up in 1973. The Philippines is divided into 80 provinces and 120 charter cities for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in the Philippines

The economy of the Philippines is growing due to its rich natural resources and overseas workers. 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, along with 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: the 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.

The Philippines, like many other tropical island nations, has problems with deforestation and soil and water pollution. The Philippines' problems with air pollution are especially bad 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.
  • The life expectancy in the Philippines as of 2019 is 71.16 years.
  • Other large cities in the Philippines include Davao City and Cebu City.

Sources

  • “Philippines.” Infoplease, Infoplease, https://www.infoplease.com/world/countries/philippines.
  • “The World Factbook: Philippines.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1 Feb. 2018, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rp.html.
  • “U.S. Relations With the Philippines - United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-the-philippines/.