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Philippines, archipelago and republic in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Land and climate

The Philippines consists of more than 7,000 islands with a total area of 115,830 sq mi (300,000 sq km). A far-flung archipelago, the Philippines is bounded by the China Sea to the west, the Celebes Sea to the south, the Philippine Sea to the east and, in the north, the Bashi Channel separates the Philippines from Taiwan. The islands range in size from tiny rocks and islets to Luzon, the largest of them, with an area of 41,845 sq mi (108,378 sq km). Only 2,870 of the islands are named, about 730 are inhabited, and 11 account for most of the total land area and most of the population. The landscape of the Philippines is characterized by coastal mangroves, fertile plains, luxuriant tropical jungles, rugged mountains, and active volcanoes and hot springs. The area is prone to earthquakes. Each island has its own distinct features. Luzon is mountainous, but has fertile plains and rolling hills. Among its many fine harbors is Manila Bay, site of the nation's capital, Manila. Mindanao, the archipelago's second largest island with an area of 36,381 sq mi(94,227 sq km) is even more mountainous, but also has the Cotabato Valley, an important agricultural area. The Philippines has a consistently hot and humid monsoon climate and is exposed to destructive Pacific typhoons.


The Philippine people are predominantly of Malay origin, but also include Chinese, Indonesians, Moros, and Negritos, pygmies who are descendants of the island's original inhabitants. Pilipino was adopted as the national language in 1946, and many other native languages are also spoken. The majority of the people are Roman Catholic, but there is also a sizeable Muslim minority.


About 45% of Philipinos work on the land. The leading crops are rice, coconut, corn, and sugar. Abaca (Manila hemp) and lumber are important exports. The islands are rich in mineral resources, in particular lead, nickel, zinc, copper, and cobalt. Manila is the main industrial center and manufacturing includes wood products, textiles, aluminum, and tobacco.


The islands were first visited by Europeans on Magellan's expedition of 1521, and were later named in honor of the future Philip II of Spain. By the 1570s Spanish rule was secure and lasted until the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, after which the Philippines were ceded to the United States. A revolutionary nationalist movement under the leadership of Emilio Aquinaldo helped the United States defeat Spain. The issue of independence loomed large in U.S. relations with the Philippines until the establishment, in 1935, of the internally self-governing Commonwealth of the Philippines, with Manuel Quezon as president. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the country was made an independent republic in 1946, with Manuel Roxas and later Ramon Magsaysay as presidents. Communist revolutionary movements have been active since 1949. The powers of the presidency were greatly increased in 1972 with the imposition of martial law (until 1981) under President Ferdinand Marcos.

The murder of Benigno Aquino and charges of fraud in the presidential elections of February 7,1986, led to the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos. Corazon Aquino, wife of Benigno Aquino, claimed victory in the elections and accused Marcos forces of manipulating election returns. Weeks of political turmoil ensued. Finally the army took the side of Mrs. Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, fled the country. Under Aquino, a new constitution was ratified in 1987. Based on a three year phased-out withdrawal agreement, the U.S. navy closed it's Subic Bay base on September 30, 1992.

Under Fidel Ramos, who was elected president in May 1992, political stability led to economic growth. Liberalized economic policies, deregulation, and privatization produced consumer confidence and attracted substantial foreign investment. In 1995, Ramos signed a peace agreement with military rebels, and another peace agreement was signed in 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front. In 1998 Joseph Estrada was elected president.


Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Pennsylvania Dutch to Pima