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Philippines Profile


Philippines Profile
CIA Country Index


Southeastern Asia, an archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam. Read our Philippines Travel Information page for more details on how to get in and around the country.


The Philippines’ total area is 300,000 sq km, making it slightly larger than Arizona. Its climate is tropical marine; with annual northeast (November to April) and southwest (May to October) monsoons. The terrain mostly consists of mountains, with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands. Its highest point is Mount Apo with a height of 2,954 m. The Philippines’ natural resources include timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, and copper.


More than 91,000,000 people live in the Philippines. Life expectancy is 70.51 years. Birth rate is 24.48 births per 1,000. Literacy rate is 92.6%.


Filipino, a language based on Tagalog, is recognized officially, as is English; eight major dialects are also spoken widely throughout the country – Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangalatok.

Ethnic Groups:

Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Bisaya/Binisaya, Hiligaynon Ilonggo, Bikol, Waray, ethnic Chinese


More than 80% of the population professes Roman Catholicism; the remainder is mostly composed of Muslims, Evangelical Christians, Iglesia ni Kristo, and Aglipayans.

Political History:

The Philippines was a Spanish colony since the 16th century, then ceded to the US in 1898. In 1942 the islands fell to the Japanese during WWII, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. Independence was granted on 4 July 1946. The 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986 when a "people power" movement ("EDSA 1") forced him into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power in January 2001 after Joseph Estrada's impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and another "people power" movement ("EDSA 2") demanded his resignation.

Economic Overview:

The Philippines was less severely affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1998 than its neighbors, thanks to its high level of annual remittances from overseas workers, no sustained runup in asset prices, and more moderate debt prior to the crisis. GDP expanded by 2.4% in 1999, and 4.4% in 2000 but slowed to 3.2% in 2001. Average GDP growth accelerated to about 5% between 2002 and 2006. It will take a higher, sustained growth path to make appreciable progress in the alleviation of poverty given the Philippines' high annual population growth rate and unequal distribution of income.

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