General background: The Philippines were ceded by
Spain to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American
War. They attained their independence in 1946 after
Japanese occupation in World War II. The 21-year rule
of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986 when a widespread
popular rebellion forced him into exile. In 1992,
the US closed its last military bases on the islands.
The Philippines has had two electoral presidential
transitions since Marcos' removal by "people
power." In January 2001, the Supreme Court declared
Joseph ESTRADA unable to rule in view of mass resignations
from his government and administered the oath of office
to Vice President Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO as his constitutional
successor. The government continues to struggle with
ongoing Muslim insurgencies in the south.
Area comparative: Slightly larger than Arizona.
Climate: Tropical marine; northeast monsoon
(November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Terrain: Mostly mountains with narrow to extensive
Population: 84,525,639 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Christian Malay 91.5%, Muslim
Malay 4%, Chinese 1.5%, other 3%
Religions: Roman Catholic 83%, Protestant
9%, Muslim 5%, Buddhist and other 3%
Language: Two official languages - Filipino
(based on Tagalog) and English; eight major dialects
- Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocan, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo,
Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on Spanish and Anglo-American
law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.
Economic overview: In 1998 the Philippine
economy - a mixture of agriculture, light industry,
and supporting services - deteriorated as a result
of spill-over from the Asian financial crisis and
poor weather conditions. Growth fell to 0.6% in 1998
from 5% in 1997, but recovered to about 3% in 1999
and 4% in 2000. The government has promised to continue
its economic reforms to help the Philippines match
the pace of development in the newly industrialized
countries of East Asia. The strategy includes improving
infrastructure, overhauling the tax system to bolster
government revenues, furthering deregulation and privatisation
of the economy, and increasing trade integration with
the region. Prospects for 2002 depend heavily on the
economic performance of two major trading partners,
the US and Japan.
Communication/Telephone system: Good international
radiotelephone and submarine cable services; domestic
and inter-island service adequate.
Places of interest:
Travel tips: In addition to bombings, the guerrilla
fighters are infamous for kidnapping foreign tourists.
Be cautious and at high alert in the Philippines.