Philippines - Tips

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
May 2007

Background Note: Philippines

Beach in Cebu Province, Philippines, April 23, 2006. [© AP Images] Flag of
Philippines is two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a white
equilateral triangle based on the hoist side; in the center of the triangle
is a yellow sun with eight primary rays (each containing three individual
rays) and in each corner of the triangle is a small yellow five-pointed star.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of the Philippines

Geography
Area: 300,000 sq. km. (117,187 sq. mi.).
Major cities (2005 estimate): Capital--Manila (pop. 11.29 million in
metropolitan area); other cities--Davao City (1.33 million); Cebu City (0.82
million).
Terrain: Islands, 65% mountainous, with narrow coastal lowlands.
Climate: Tropical, astride typhoon belt.

Map of Philippines, 2007. People
Nationality: Noun--Filipino(s). Adjective--Philippine.
Population (2007 estimate): 91.077 million; estimate for 2006: 89.5 million.
Annual growth rate: 1.764%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese.
Religions: Catholic 85%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 5%, Buddhist and other 1%.
Languages: Pilipino (based on Tagalog), national language; English, language
of government and instruction in education.
Education: Years compulsory--6 (note: 6 years of primary education free and
compulsory; 4 years of secondary education free but not compulsory).
Attendance--94% in elementary grades, 64% in secondary grades.
Literacy--93.4%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2003)--29 per 1,000. Life expectancy (2005)
--64.10 yrs. for males; 70.10 yrs. for females.
Work force (2006): 35.79 million. Services (including commerce and
government, 2005)--48%; agriculture--20%; industry--36%.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: 1946.
Constitution: February 11, 1987.
Branches: Executive--president and vice president. Legislative--bicameral
legislature. Judicial--independent.
Administrative subdivisions: 15 regions and Metro Manila (National Capital
Region), 79 provinces, 115 cities.
Political parties: Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, Nationalist People's
Coalition, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Liberal Party, Aksiyon
Demokratiko, Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, and other small
parties.
Suffrage: Universal, but not compulsory, at age 18.

Economy
GDP (2006): $116.9 billion.
Annual GDP growth rate (2006): 5.4% at constant prices.
GDP per capita (2005): $1,024.
Natural resources: Copper, nickel, iron, cobalt, silver, gold.
Agriculture: Products--rice, coconut products, sugar, corn, pork, bananas,
pineapple products, aquaculture, mangoes, eggs.
Industry: Types--textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood
products, food processing, electronics assembly, petroleum refining, fishing.
Trade (2006): Exports--$47.2 billion. Imports--$51.6 billion.

PEOPLE
The majority of Philippine people are of Malay stock, descendants of
Indonesians and Malays who migrated to the islands long before the Christian
era. The most significant ethnic minority group is the Chinese, who have
played an important role in commerce since the ninth century, when they first
came to the islands to trade. As a result of intermarriage, many Filipinos
have some Chinese and Spanish ancestry. Americans and Spaniards constitute
the next largest alien minorities in the country.

More than 90% of the people are Christian; most were converted and became
westernized to varying degrees during nearly 400 years of Spanish and
American rule. The major non-Hispanicized groups are the Muslim population,
concentrated in the Sulu Archipelago and in central and western Mindanao, and
the mountain groups of northern Luzon. Small forest tribes still live in the
more remote areas of Mindanao.

About 87 native languages and dialects are spoken, all belonging to the
Malay-Polynesian linguistic family. Of these, eight are the first languages
of more than 85% of the population. The three principal indigenous languages
are Cebuano, spoken in the Visayas; Tagalog, predominant in the area around
Manila; and Ilocano, spoken in northern Luzon. Since 1939, in an effort to
develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the national
language, Pilipino, which is based on Tagalog. Pilipino is taught in all
schools and is gaining widespread acceptance across the archipelago. Many use
English, the most important nonnative language, as a second language,
including nearly all professionals, academics, and government workers. In
January 2003, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Department of
Education to restore English as the medium of instruction in all schools and
universities. However, most of the English-speaking community still writes at
a middle grade level, although, as noted, exceptions are found among the
highly or U.S. educated populations. Only a few Filipino families use Spanish
as a first language.

The Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the East Asian and
Pacific area. About 92% of the population 10 years of age and older are
literate.

HISTORY
The history of the Philippines can be divided into four distinct phases: the
pre-Spanish period (before 1521); the Spanish period (1521-1898); the
American period (1898-1946); and the post-independence period (1946-present).

Pre-Spanish Period
The first people in the Philippines, the Negritos, are believed to have come
to the islands 30,000 years ago from Borneo and Sumatra, making their way
across then-existing land bridges. Subsequently, people of Malay stock came
from the south in successive waves, the earliest by land bridges and later in
boats by sea. The Malays settled in scattered communities, named barangays
after the large outrigger boats in which they arrived, and ruled by
chieftains known as datus. Chinese merchants and traders arrived and settled
in the ninth century, and 500 years later, Arabs arrived, introducing Islam
in the south and extending some influence even into Luzon. The Malays,
however, remained the dominant group until the Spanish arrived in the 16th
century.

Spanish Period
Ferdinand Magellan reached the Philippines and claimed the archipelago for
Spain in 1521, and for the next 377 years, the islands were under Spanish
rule. This period was the era of conversion to Roman Catholicism. A Spanish
colonial social system was developed with a government centered in Manila and
with considerable clerical influence. Spanish influence was strongest in
Luzon and the central Philippines but less so in Mindanao, save for certain
coastal cities.

The long period of Spanish rule was marked by numerous uprisings. Towards the
latter half of the 19th century, Western-educated Filipinos or ilustrados
(such as national hero Jose Rizal) began to criticize the excesses of Spanish
rule and instilled a new sense of national identity. This movement gave
inspiration to the final revolt against Spain that began in 1896 under the
leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo and continued until the Americans defeated the
Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War.
Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

American Period
Following Admiral George Dewey's defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay,
the U.S. occupied the Philippines. Spain ceded the islands to the United
States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898) that ended
the war.

A war of resistance against U.S. rule, led by revolutionary President
Aguinaldo, broke out in 1899. This conflict claimed the lives of tens of
thousands of Filipinos and thousands of Americans. Although Americans have
historically used the term "the Philippine Insurrection", Filipinos and an
increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the
Philippine-American War (1899-1902), and in 1999, the U.S. Library of
Congress reclassified its references to use this term. In 1901, Aguinaldo was
captured and swore allegiance to the U.S., and resistance gradually died out
until the conflict ended with a Peace Proclamation on July 4, 1902. However,
armed resistance continued sporadically until 1913, especially in Mindanao
and Sulu, with heavy casualties on both sides.

U.S. administration of the Philippines was always declared to be temporary
and aimed to develop institutions that would permit and encourage the
eventual establishment of a free and democratic government. Therefore, U.S.
officials concentrated on the creation of such practical supports for
democratic government as public education and a sound legal system.

The first legislative assembly was elected in 1907, and a bicameral
legislature, largely under Philippine control, was established. A civil
service was formed and was gradually taken over by the Filipinos, who had
effectively gained control by the end of World War I. The Catholic Church was
disestablished, and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and
redistributed.

In 1935, under the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippines became
a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel Quezon was elected president of the new
government, which was designed to prepare the country for independence after
a 10-year transition period. World War II intervened, however, and in May
1942, Corregidor, the last American/Filipino stronghold, fell. U.S. forces in
the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, placing the islands under
Japanese control. During the occupation, thousands of Filipinos fought a
running guerilla campaign against Japanese forces.

The full-scale war to regain the Philippines began when General Douglas
MacArthur landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944. Filipinos and Americans fought
together until the Japanese surrendered in September 1945. Much of Manila was
destroyed during the final months of the fighting, making it the second most
devastated city in World War II after Warsaw. In total, an estimated one
million Filipinos lost their lives in the war.

Due to the Japanese occupation, the guerrilla warfare that followed, and the
battles leading to liberation, the country suffered great damage and a
complete organizational breakdown. Despite the shaken state of the country,
the U.S. and the Philippines decided to move forward with plans for
independence. On July 4, 1946, the Philippine Islands became the independent
Republic of the Philippines, in accordance with the terms of the
Tydings-McDuffie Act. In 1962, the official Philippine Independence Day was
changed from July 4 to June 12, commemorating the date independence from
Spain was declared by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898.

Post-Independence Period
The early years of independence were dominated by U.S.-assisted postwar
reconstruction. The communist-inspired Huk Rebellion (1945-53) complicated
recovery efforts before its successful suppression under the leadership of
President Ramon Magsaysay. The succeeding administrations of Presidents
Carlos P. Garcia (1957-61) and Diosdado Macapagal (1961-65) sought to expand
Philippine ties to its Asian neighbors, implement domestic reform programs,
and develop and diversify the economy.

In 1972, President Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-86) declared martial law, citing
growing lawlessness and open rebellion by the communist rebels as his
justification. Marcos governed from 1973 until mid-1981 in accordance with
the transitory provisions of a new constitution that replaced the
commonwealth constitution of 1935. He suppressed democratic institutions and
restricted civil liberties during the martial law period, ruling largely by
decree and popular referenda. The government began a process of political
normalization during 1978-81, culminating in the reelection of President
Marcos to a six-year term that would have ended in 1987. The Marcos
government's respect for human rights remained low despite the end of martial
law on January 17, 1981. His government retained its wide arrest and
detention powers, and corruption and cronyism contributed to a serious
decline in economic growth and development.

The assassination of opposition leader Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino upon his return
to the Philippines in 1983 after a long period of exile coalesced popular
dissatisfaction with Marcos and set in motion a succession of events that
culminated in a snap presidential election in February 1986. The opposition
united under Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, and Salvador Laurel, head of the
United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). The election was marred
by widespread electoral fraud on the part of Marcos and his supporters.
International observers, including a U.S. delegation led by Senator Richard
Lugar (R-Indiana), denounced the official results. Marcos was forced to flee
the Philippines in the face of a peaceful civilian-military uprising that
ousted him and installed Corazon Aquino as president on February 25, 1986.

Under Aquino's presidency, progress was made in revitalizing democratic
institutions and civil liberties. However, the administration was also viewed
by many as weak and fractious, and a return to full political stability and
economic development was hampered by several attempted coups staged by
disaffected members of the Philippine military.

Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992. Early in his administration, Ramos
declared "national reconciliation" his highest priority. He legalized the
Communist Party and created the National Unification Commission (NUC) to lay
the groundwork for talks with communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and
military rebels. In June 1994, President Ramos signed into law a general
conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, as well as Philippine military
and police personnel accused of crimes committed while fighting the
insurgents. In October 1995, the government signed an agreement bringing the
military insurgency to an end. A peace agreement with one major Muslim
insurgent group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), was signed in
1996, using the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a
vehicle for self-government.

Popular movie actor Joseph Ejercito Estrada's election as president in May
1998 marked the Philippines' third democratic succession since the ouster of
Marcos. Estrada was elected with overwhelming mass support on a platform
promising poverty alleviation and an anti-crime crackdown.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, elected vice president in 1998, assumed the
presidency in January 2001 after widespread demonstrations that followed the
breakdown of Estrada's impeachment trial on corruption charges. The
Philippine Supreme Court subsequently endorsed unanimously the
constitutionality of the transfer of power. National and local elections took
place in May 2004. Under the constitution, Arroyo was eligible for another
six-year term as president, and she won a hard-fought campaign against her
primary challenger, movie actor Fernando Poe, Jr., in elections held May 10,
2004. Noli De Castro was elected vice president.

Impeachment charges were brought against Arroyo in June 2005 for allegedly
tampering with the results of the elections after purported tapes of her
speaking with an electoral official during the vote count surfaced, but
Congress rejected the charges in September 2005. Similar charges were
discussed and dismissed by Congress in the summer of 2006.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Philippines has a representative democracy modeled on the U.S. system.
The 1987 constitution, adopted during the Aquino administration,
reestablished a presidential system of government with a bicameral
legislature and an independent judiciary. The president is limited to one
six-year term. Provision also was made in the constitution for autonomous
regions in Muslim areas of Mindanao and in the Cordillera region of northern
Luzon, where many indigenous tribes still live.

The 24-member Philippine Senate is elected at large, and all senators serve
six-year terms. Half are elected every three years. Of a maximum of 250
members in the House of Representatives, 212 are elected from single-member
districts to serve three-year terms. The remainder of the House seats are
designated for sectoral party representatives elected at large, called party
list representatives; from the May 2004 elections, there were 24 such
representatives in the House. All representatives serve three-year terms,
with a maximum of three consecutive terms. On May 14, 2007, legislative and
local elections were held; as of mid-May, official results were pending.

The government continues to face threats from terrorist groups, including the
Communist New People's Army and Muslim groups. The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group
(ASG), which gained international notoriety with its kidnappings of foreign
tourists in the southern islands, remains a major problem for the government,
along with members of the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Efforts to
track down and destroy the ASG and JI have met with some success, especially
in Basilan and Jolo, where U.S. troops advised, assisted, and trained
Philippine soldiers in counterterrorism. In August 2006, the Armed Forces of
the Philippines began a major offensive against ASG and JI on the island of
Jolo. This offensive was remarkably successful and has resulted so far in the
deaths of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafy Janjalani and his deputy, Abu Solaiman.
The U.S. Government provided rewards to Philippine citizens whose information
led to these deaths in the military operations, as well as to many other
operations against terrorist leaders.

An international monitoring team continues to watch over a four-year-old
cease-fire agreement between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF). In June 2003, the MILF issued a formal renunciation
of terrorism. Talks on a peace accord between the two sides continue, with
the Government of Malaysia acting as principal mediator.

Principal Government Officials
President--Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Vice President--Noli De Castro
Foreign Secretary--Alberto Romulo
Ambassador to the United States--Ambassador Willie Gaa
Permanent Representative to the UN--Hilario G. Davide

The Republic of the Philippines maintains an embassy in the United States at
1600 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-467-9300).
Consulates general are in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Honolulu, and Agana (Guam).

ECONOMY
Since the end of World War II, the Philippine economy has had a mixed history
of growth and development. Over the years, the Philippines has gone from
being one of the richest countries in Asia (following Japan) to being one of
the poorest. Growth immediately after the war was rapid, but slowed over
time. A severe recession in 1984-85 saw the economy shrink by more than 10%,
and perceptions of political instability during the Aquino administration
further dampened economic activity. During his administration, President
Ramos introduced a broad range of economic reforms and initiatives designed
to spur business growth and foreign investment. As a result, the Philippines
saw a period of higher growth, but the Asian financial crisis triggered in
1997 slowed economic development in the Philippines once again. President
Estrada managed to continue some of the reforms begun by the Ramos
administration. Important laws to strengthen regulation and supervision of
the banking system (General Banking Act) and securities markets (Securities
Regulation Code), to liberalize foreign participation in the retail trade
sector, and to promote and regulate electronic commerce were enacted during
his abbreviated term. Despite occasional challenges to her presidency and
resistance to pro-liberalization reforms by vested interests, President
Arroyo has made considerable progress in restoring macroeconomic stability
with the help of a well-regarded economic team. Nonetheless, long-term
economic growth remains threatened by widespread poverty, crumbling
infrastructure and education systems, and trade and investment barriers.

Important sectors of the Philippine economy include agriculture and industry,
particularly food processing; textiles and garments; and electronics and
automobile parts. Most industries are concentrated in the urban areas around
metropolitan Manila. Mining also has great potential in the Philippines,
which possesses significant reserves of chromite, nickel, and copper.
Significant natural gas finds off the islands of Palawan have added to the
country's substantial geothermal, hydro, and coal energy reserves.

Today's Economy
GDP grew by 5.4% in 2006, mark

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