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The Philippines (/ˈfɪlɪpnz/ (About this soundlisten); Filipino: Pilipinas locally [ˌpɪlɪˈpinɐs] or Filipinas locally [fɪlɪˈpinɐs]), officially the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas),[a] is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It is situated in the western Pacific Ocean, and consists of about 7,640 islands, that are broadly categorized under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Philippines is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the southwest, and shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia and Brunei to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest. The Philippines covers an area of 300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi) and, as of 2020, had a population of around 109 million people, making it the world's twelfth-most populous country. The Philippines is a multinational state, with diverse ethnicities and cultures throughout its islands. Manila is the nation's capital, while the largest city is Quezon City, both lying within the urban area of Metro Manila.

Negritos, some of the archipelago's earliest inhabitants, were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples. Adoption of AnimismHinduism and Islam established island-kingdoms called KedatuansRajahnates and Sultanates. The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer leading a fleet for Spain, marked the beginning of Spanish colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. Spanish settlement through Mexico, beginning in 1565, led to the Philippines becoming part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. During this time, Catholicism became the dominant religion, and Manila became the western hub of trans-Pacific trade. In 1896, the Philippine Revolution began, which then became entwined with the 1898 Spanish–American War. Spain ceded the territory to the United States, while Filipino rebels declared the First Philippine Republic. The ensuing Philippine–American War ended with the United States establishing control over the territory, which they maintained until the Japanese invasion of the islands during World War II. Following liberation, the Philippines became independent in 1946. Since then, the unitary sovereign state has often had a tumultuous experience with democracy, which included the overthrow of a dictatorship by the People Power Revolution.

It is considered to be an emerging market and a newly industrialized country, which has an economy transitioning from being based on agriculture to being based more on services and manufacturing. The Philippines is a founding member of the United NationsWorld Trade OrganizationAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the East Asia Summit. The Philippines' position as an island country on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the country prone to earthquakes and typhoons. The country has a variety of natural resources and a globally significant level of biodiversity. This low-lying island geography makes the country vulnerable to climate change, increasing risk from typhoons and sea level rise.


Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, during his expedition in 1542, named the islands of Leyte and Samar "Felipinas" after Philip II of Spain, then the Prince of Asturias. Eventually the name "Las Islas Filipinas" would be used to cover the archipelago's Spanish possessions.[16] Before Spanish rule was established, other names such as Islas del Poniente (Islands of the West) and Magellan's name for the islands, San Lázaro, were also used by the Spanish to refer to islands in the region.[17][18][19][20]
During the Philippine Revolution, the Malolos Congress proclaimed the establishment of the República Filipina or the Philippine Republic. From the period of the Spanish–American War (1898) and the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) until the Commonwealth period (1935–1946), American colonial authorities referred to the country as The Philippine Islands, a translation of the Spanish name.[21] The United States began the process of changing the reference to the country from The Philippine Islands to The Philippines, specifically when it was mentioned in the Philippine Autonomy Act or the Jones Law.[22] The full official title, Republic of the Philippines, was included in the 1935 constitution as the name of the future independent state,[23] it is also mentioned in all succeeding constitutional revisions.[24][25]


Prehistory (pre–900)

There is evidence of early hominins living in what is now the Philippines as early as 709,000 years ago.[26] A small number of bones from Callao Cave potentially represent an otherwise unknown species, Homo luzonensis, that lived around 50,000 to 67,000 years ago.[27][28] The oldest modern human remains found on the islands are from the Tabon Caves of PalawanU/Th-dated to 47,000 ± 11–10,000 years ago.[29] The Tabon Man is presumably a Negrito, who were among the archipelago's earliest inhabitants, descendants of the first human migrations out of Africa via the coastal route along southern Asia to the now sunken landmasses of Sundaland and Sahul.[30]
The first Austronesians reached the Philippines at around 2200 BC, settling the Batanes Islands and northern Luzon from Taiwan. From there, they rapidly spread downwards to the rest of the islands of the Philippines and Southeast Asia.[31][32] This population assimilated with the existing Negritos resulting in the modern Filipino ethnic groups which display various ratios of genetic admixture between Austronesian and Negrito groups.[33] Genetic signatures also indicate the potential migration of AustroasiaticPapuan, and South Asian people.[34] Jade artifacts have been found dated to 2000 BC,[35][36] with the lingling-o jade items crafted in Luzon made using raw materials originating from Taiwan.[37] By 1000 BC, the inhabitants of the archipelago had developed into four kinds of social groups: hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, highland plutocracies, and port principalities.[38]

Early states (900–1565)

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the oldest known writing found in the Philippines

The earliest known surviving written record found in the Philippines is the Laguna Copperplate Inscription.[39] By the 1300s, a number of the large coastal settlements had emerged as trading centers, and became the focal point of societal changes.[40] Some polities had exchanges with other states across Asia.[41][42][43][44][45] Trade with China is believed to have begun during the Tang dynasty, but grew more extensive during the Song dynasty.[46] By the 2nd millennium CE, some Philippine polities sent delegations participating in the tributary system of China.[47][41] Indian cultural traits, such as linguistic terms and religious practices, began to spread within the Philippines during the 10th century, likely via the Hindu Majapahit empire.[44][40][48] By the 15th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there.[49]

Polities founded in the Philippines from the 10th–16th centuries include Maynila,[50] TondoNamayanPangasinanCebuButuanMaguindanaoLanaoSulu, and Ma-i.[51] The early polities were typically made up of three-tier social structure: a nobility class, a class of "freemen", and a class of dependent debtor-bondsmen.[40][41] Among the nobility were leaders called "Datus," responsible for ruling autonomous groups called "barangay" or "dulohan".[40] When these barangays banded together, either to form a larger settlement[40] or a geographically looser alliance group,[41] the more esteemed among them would be recognized as a "paramount datu",[40][38] rajah, or sultan[52] which headed the community state.[53] Warfare developed and escalated during the 14th to 16th centuries[54] and throughout these periods population density is thought to have been low.[55] The Luções from Luzon then had economic and military influence in SouthSoutheast and East Asia.[56] In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the area, claimed the islands for Spain, and was then killed by natives at the Battle of Mactan (see also: Lapulapu) .[57]

Colonial rule (1565–1946)

Spanish artillery along the walls of Intramuros to protect the city from local revolts and foreign invaders.

Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565.[58][59]:20–23 In 1571, Spanish Manila became the capital of the Spanish East Indies,[60] which encompassed Spanish territories in Asia and the Pacific.[61][62] The Spanish successfully invaded the different local states by employing the principle of divide and conquer,[63] bringing most of what is now the Philippines into a single unified administration.[64][65] Disparate barangays were deliberately consolidated into towns, where Catholic missionaries were more easily able to convert the inhabitants to Christianity.[66]:53, 68[67] From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as part of the Mexico-based Viceroyalty of New Spain, later administered from Madrid following the Mexican War of Independence.[68] Manila was the western hub of the trans-Pacific trade.[69] Manila galleons were constructed in Bicol and Cavite.[70][71]

During its rule, Spain quelled various indigenous revolts,[72] as well as defending against external military challenges.[73][74] Spanish forces included soldiers from elsewhere in New Spain, many of whom deserted and intermingled with the wider population.[75][76][77] Immigration blurred the racial caste system[66]:98[78][79] Spain maintained in towns and cities.[80] War against the Dutch from the West, in the 17th century, together with conflict with the Muslims in the South nearly bankrupted the colonial treasury.[81]

Administration of the Philippine islands were considered a drain on the economy of Spain,[73] and there were debates to abandon it or trade it for other territory. However, this was opposed due to economic potential, security, and the desire to continue religious conversion in the islands and the surrounding region.[82][83] The Philippines survived on an annual subsidy provided by the Spanish Crown,[73] which averaged 250,000 pesos[84] and was usually paid through the provision of 75 tons of silver bullion being sent from the Americas.[85]

British forces occupied Manila from 1762 to 1764 during the Seven Years' War, with Spanish rule restored through the 1763 Treaty of Paris.[59]:81–83 The Spanish considered their war with the Muslims in Southeast Asia an extension of the Reconquista.[86] The Spanish–Moro conflict lasted for several hundred years. In the last quarter of the 19th century, Spain conquered portions of Mindanao and Jolo,[87] and the Moro Muslims in the Sultanate of Sulu formally recognized Spanish sovereignty.[88][89]

Filipino Ilustrados in Spain formed the Propaganda Movement. Photographed in 1890.

In the 19th century, Philippine ports opened to world trade and shifts started occurring within Filipino society.[90][91] The Latin American wars of independence and renewed immigration led to shifts in social identity, with the term Filipino shifting from referring to Spaniards born in the Philippines to a term encompassing all people in the archipelago. This identity shift was driven by wealthy families of mixed ancestry, to which it became a national identity.[92][93]

Revolutionary sentiments were stoked in 1872 after three activist Catholic priests were executed on weak pretences.[94][95][96] This would inspire a propaganda movement in Spain, organized by Marcelo H. del PilarJosé Rizal, and Mariano Ponce, lobbying for political reforms in the Philippines. Rizal was eventually executed on December 30, 1896, on charges of rebellion. This radicalized many who had previously been loyal to Spain.[97] As attempts at reform met with resistance, Andrés Bonifacio in 1892 established the militant secret society called the Katipunan, who sought independence from Spain through armed revolt.[98]

The Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution in 1896.[99] Internal disputes led to an election in which Bonifacio lost his position and Emilio Aguinaldo was elected as the new leader of the revolution.[100]:145–147 In 1897, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato brought about the exile of the revolutionary leadership to Hong Kong. In 1898, the Spanish–American War began and reached Philippines. Aguinaldo returned, resumed the revolution, and declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.[66]:112–113 The First Philippine Republic was established on January 21, 1899.[101]

General Douglas MacArthur landing ashore during the Battle of Leyte on October 20, 1944.

The islands had been ceded by Spain to the United States alongside Puerto Rico and Guam as a result of the latter's victory in the Spanish–American War.[102][103] As it became increasingly clear the United States would not recognize the First Philippine Republic, the Philippine–American War broke out.[104] War resulted in the deaths of 250,000 to 1 million civilians, mostly due to famine and disease.[105][self-published source?] After the defeat of the First Philippine Republic, an American civilian government was established.[106] American forces continued to secure and extend their control over the islands, suppressing an attempted extension of the Philippine Republic,[100]:200–202[107] securing the Sultanate of Sulu,[108] and establishing control over interior mountainous areas that had resisted Spanish conquest.[109]

Cultural developments strengthened the continuing development of a national identity,[110][111] and Tagalog began to take precedence over other local languages.[66]:121 In 1935, the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status with Manuel Quezon as president and Sergio Osmeña as vice president.[112] Quezon's priorities were defence, social justice, inequality and economic diversification, and national character.[113] Tagalog was designated the national language,[114] women's suffrage was introduced,[115] and land reform mooted.[116][117]

During World War II the Japanese Empire invaded[118] and the Second Philippine Republic, under Jose P. Laurel, was established as a puppet state.[119][120] From 1942 the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by large-scale underground guerrilla activity.[121][122][123] Atrocities and war crimes were committed during the war, including the Bataan Death March and the Manila massacre.[124][125] Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945. By the end of the war it is estimated that over a million Filipinos had died.[126][127] On October 11, 1945, the Philippines became one of the founding members of the United Nations.[128][129] On July 4, 1946, the Philippines was officially recognized by the United States as an independent nation through the Treaty of Manila, during the presidency of Manuel Roxas.[129][130][131]

Postcolonial period (1946–present)

Efforts to end the Hukbalahap Rebellion began during Elpidio Quirino's term,[132] however, it was only during Ramon Magsaysay's presidency was the movement suppressed.[133] Magsaysay's successor, Carlos P. Garcia, initiated the Filipino First Policy,[134] which was continued by Diosdado Macapagal, with celebration of Independence Day moved from July 4 to June 12, the date of Emilio Aguinaldo's declaration,[135][136] and pursuit of a claim on the eastern part of North Borneo.[137][138]

In 1965, Macapagal lost the presidential election to Ferdinand Marcos. Early in his presidency, Marcos initiated numerous infrastructure projects[139] but, together with his wife Imelda, was accused of corruption and embezzling billions of dollars in public funds.[140] Nearing the end of his term, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972.[141][142] This period of his rule was characterized by political repression, censorship, and human rights violations.[143]

On August 21, 1983, Marcos' chief rival, opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated on the tarmac at Manila International Airport. Marcos called a snap presidential election in 1986.[144] Marcos was proclaimed the winner, but the results were widely regarded as fraudulent.[145] The resulting protests led to the People Power Revolution,[146] which forced Marcos and his allies to flee to Hawaii, and Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, was installed as president.[144][147]

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.

The return of democracy and government reforms beginning in 1986 were hampered by national debt, government corruption, coup attempts,[148][149] a persistent communist insurgency,[150][151] and a military conflict with Moro separatists.[152] The administration also faced a series of disasters, including the sinking of the MV Doña Paz in December 1987[153] and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991.[154][155] Aquino was succeeded by Fidel V. Ramos, whose economic performance, at 3.6% growth rate,[156][157] was overshadowed by the onset of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.[158][159]

Ramos' successor, Joseph Estrada, was overthrown by the 2001 EDSA Revolution and succeeded by his vice presidentGloria Macapagal Arroyo, on January 20, 2001.[160] Arroyo's 9-year administration was marked by economic growth,[161] but was tainted by graft and political scandals.[162][163] On November 23, 2009, 34 journalists and several civilians were killed in Maguindanao.[164][165]

Economic growth continued during Benigno Aquino III's administration, which pushed for good governance and transparency.[166][167] In 2015, a clash which took place in Mamasapano, Maguindanao killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force, resulting in efforts to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law reaching an impasse.[168][169] Former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 presidential election, becoming the first president from Mindanao.[170][171] Duterte launched an anti-drug campaign[172][173] and an infrastructure plan.[174][175] The implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law led to the creation of the autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.[176][177] In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reached the country[178][179] causing the economy to contract by 9.5% in terms of gross domestic product since records began in 1947.[180]

Geography and environment

Topography of the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago composed of about 7,640 islands,[181][182] covering a total area, including inland bodies of water, of around 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi),[183][184] with cadastral survey data suggesting it may be larger.[185] Its 36,289 kilometers (22,549 mi) coastline gives it the world's fifth-longest coastline.[186] The EEZ of the Philippines covers 2,263,816 km2 (874,064 sq mi).[187] It is located between 116° 40', and 126° 34' E longitude and 4° 40' and 21° 10' N latitude and is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east,[188][189] the South China Sea to the west,[190] and the Celebes Sea to the south.[191] The island of Borneo is located a few hundred kilometers southwest,[192] and Taiwan is located directly to the north. Sulawesi is located to the southwest and Palau is located to the east of the islands.[193][194]

The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It measures up to 2,954 meters (9,692 ft) above sea level and is located on the island of Mindanao.[195] Running east of the archipelago, the Philippine Trench extendes 10,540-metre (34,580 ft) down at the Emden Deep.[196][197][198] The longest river is the Cagayan River in northern Luzon, measuring about 520 kilometers (320 mi).[199] Manila Bay,[200] upon the shore of which the capital city of Manila lies, is connected to Laguna de Bay,[201] the largest lake in the Philippines, by the Pasig River.[202] The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, which runs 8.2 kilometers (5.1 mi) underground through a karst landscape before reaching the ocean, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[203]

Mayon is an active stratovolcano, located in the south of the island of Luzon

Situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity.[204] The Benham Plateau to the east in the Philippine Sea is an undersea region active in tectonic subduction.[205] Around 20 earthquakes are registered daily, though most are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the 1990 Luzon earthquake.[206] There are many active volcanoes such as the Mayon VolcanoMount Pinatubo, and Taal Volcano.[207] The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.[208] The Philippines is the world's second-biggest geothermal energy producer behind the United States, with 18% of the country's electricity needs being met by geothermal power.[209]

The country has valuable,[210] mineral deposits as a result of the its complex geologic structure and high level of seismic activity.[211][212] The Philippine are thought to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa, along with a large amount of copper deposits,[213] and the world's largest deposits of palladium.[214] Other minerals include chromite, nickel, and zinc. Despite this, a lack of law enforcement, poor management, opposition due to the presence of indigenous communities, and past instances of environmental damage and disaster, have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely untapped.[213][215]


The Philippine Eagle is endemic to the forests of the country.

The Philippines is a megadiverse country.[216][217] Eight major types of forests are distributed throughout the Philippines; dipterocarp, beach forest, pine forest, molave forest, lower montane forest, upper montane or mossy forestmangroves, and ultrabasic forest.[218] Around 1,100 land vertebrate species can be found in the Philippines including over 100 mammal species and 170 bird species not thought to exist elsewhere.[219] The Philippines has among the highest rates of discovery in the world with sixteen new species of mammals discovered in the last ten years. Because of this, the rate of endemism for the Philippines has risen and likely will continue to rise.[220] Parts of its marine waters contain the highest diversity of shorefish species in the world.[221]

Large reptiles include the Philippine crocodile[222] and saltwater crocodile.[223] The largest crocodile in captivity, known locally as Lolong, was captured in the southern island of Mindanao,[224] and died on February 10, 2013, from pneumonia and cardiac arrest.[225] The national bird, known as the Philippine eagle, has the longest body of any eagle; it generally measures 86 to 102 cm (2.82 to 3.35 ft) in length and weighs 4.7 to 8.0 kg (10.4 to 17.6 lb).[226][227] The Philippine eagle is part of the family Accipitridae and is endemic to the rainforests of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.[228]

Philippine maritime waters encompass as much as 2,200,000 square kilometers (849,425 sq mi) producing unique and diverse marine life,[229] an important part of the Coral Triangle, a territory shared with other countries.[230][231] The total number of corals and marine fish species was estimated at 500 and 2,400 respectively.[219] New records[232][233] and species discoveries continue.[234][235][236] The Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993.[237] Philippine waters also sustain the cultivation of fish, crustaceans, oysters, and seaweeds.[238] One species of oyster, Pinctada maxima, produces pearls that are naturally golden in color.[239] Pearls have been declared a "National Gem".[240]

With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country, 3,200 of which are unique to the islands,[219] Philippine rainforests boast an array of flora,[241] including many rare types of orchids[242] and rafflesia.[243] Deforestation, often the result of illegal logging, is an acute problem in the Philippines. Forest cover declined from 70% of the Philippines's total land area in 1900 to about 18.3% in 1999.[244] Many species are endangered and scientists say that Southeast Asia, which the Philippines is part of, faces a catastrophic extinction rate of 20% by the end of the 21st century.[245]


Köppen climate classification of the Philippines

The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate that is usually hot and humid. There are three seasons: a hot dry season or summer from March to May; a rainy season from June to November; and a cool dry season from December to February. The southwest monsoon lasts from May to October, and the northeast monsoon from November to April. Temperatures usually range from 21 °C (70 °F) to 32 °C (90 °F). The coolest month is January; the warmest is May.[246]

The average yearly temperature is around 26.6 °C (79.9 °F). In considering temperature, location in terms of latitude and longitude is not a significant factor, and temperatures at sea level tend to be in the same range. Altitude usually has more of an impact. The average annual temperature of Baguio at an elevation of 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) above sea level is 18.3 °C (64.9 °F), making it a popular destination during hot summers.[246] Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters (200 in) in the mountainous east coast section but less than 1,000 millimeters (39 in) in some of the sheltered valleys.[247]

Sitting astride the typhoon belt, the islands experience 15–20 typhoons annually from July to October,[247] with around nineteen typhoons[248] entering the Philippine area of responsibility in a typical year and eight or nine making landfall.[249][250] Historically typhoons were sometimes referred to as baguios.[251] The wettest recorded typhoon to hit the Philippines dropped 2,210 millimeters (87 in) in Baguio from July 14 to 18, 1911.[252] The Philippines is highly exposed to climate change and is among the world's ten countries that are most vulnerable to climate change risks.[253]

Government and politics

Malacañang Palace is the official residence of the President of the Philippines.

The Philippines has a democratic government in the form of a constitutional republic with a presidential system.[254] The President functions as both head of state and head of government[255] and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.[254] The president is elected by popular vote for a single six-year term,[256] during which he or she appoints and presides over the cabinet.[257]:213–214 Rodrigo Duterte was elected to a six-year term as president in 2016.[170] The bicameral Congress is composed of the Senate, serving as the upper house, with members elected to a six-year term, and the House of Representatives, serving as the lower house, with members elected to a three-year term.[258] Philippine politics tends to be dominated by those with well-known names, such as members of political dynasties or celebrities.[259][260]

Senators are elected at large[258] while the representatives are elected from both legislative districts and through sectoral representation.[257]:162–163 The judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, composed of a Chief Justice as its presiding officer and fourteen associate justices,[261] all of whom are appointed by the President from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.[254] The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both within the single urban area of Metro Manila.[262]

There have been attempts to change the government to a federalunicameral, or parliamentary government since the Ramos administration.[263] There is a significant amount of corruption in the Philippines,[264][265][266] which some historians attribute to the system of governance put in place during the Spanish colonial period.[267]

Foreign relations

President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss matters during a bilateral meeting in November 2017.

As a founding and active member of the United Nations,[268] the country has been elected to the Security Council.[269] Carlos P. Romulo was a former President of the United Nations General Assembly.[270][271] The country is an active participant in peacekeeping missions, particularly in East Timor.[272][273] Over 10 million Filipinos live and work overseas.[274][275]

The Philippines is a founding and active member of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).[276] It has hosted several summits and is an active contributor to the direction and policies of the bloc.[277][278] It is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS),[279] the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Group of 24, and the Non-Aligned Movement.[280] The country is also seeking to obtain observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[281][282]

The Philippines has a long relationship with the United States, covering economics, security, and people-to-people relations.[283] A mutual defense treaty between the two countries was signed in 1951, and supplemented later with the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the 2016 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.[284] The Philippines supported American policies during the Cold War and participated in the Korean and Vietnam wars.[285][286] In 2003 the Philippines was designated a Major non-NATO ally.[287] Under President Duterte ties with the United States have weakened[288] with military purchases instead coming from China and Russia,[289][290] while Duterte states that the Philippines will no longer participate in any US-led wars.[291] In 2021, it was revealed the United States would defend the Philippines including the South China sea.[292]

The Philippines attaches great importance in its relations with China, and has established significant cooperation with the country.[293][294][295][296][297][298] Japan is the biggest bilateral contributor of official development assistance to the country.[299][300][301] Although historical tensions exist due to the events of World War II, much of the animosity has faded.[302]

Historical and cultural ties continue to affect relations with Spain.[303][304] Relations with Middle Eastern countries are shaped by the high number of Filipinos working in these countries,[305] and by issues relating the Muslim minority in the Philippines.[306] Concerns have been raised regarding issues such as domestic abuse and war affecting[307][308] the around 2.5 million overseas Filipino workers in the region.[309]

The Philippines has claims in the Spratly Islands which overlap with claims by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The largest of its controlled islands in Thitu Island, which contains the Philippine's smallest village.[310][311] The Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012, where China took control of the shoal from the Philippines, led to an international arbitration case[312] and has made the shoal a prominent symbol in the wider dispute.[313]


The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) consist of three branches: the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Army, and the Philippine Navy.[314] The Armed Forces of the Philippines are a volunteer force.[315] Civilian security is handled by the Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).[316][317]

In Bangsamoro, the largest separatist organizations, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were engaging the government politically as of 2007.[318][needs update] Other more militant groups like the Abu Sayyaf have kidnapped foreigners for ransom, particularly in the Sulu Archipelago.[320][321][322][323] Their presence decreased due to successful security provided by the Philippine government.[324][325] The Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People's Army, have been waging guerrilla warfare against the government since the 1970s, reaching its apex in 1986 when Communist guerrillas gained control of a fifth of the country's territory, before significantly dwindling militarily and politically after the return of democracy in 1986.[326][327] As of 2018, $2.843 billion,[328] or 1.1 percent of GDP is spent on military forces.[329]

Administrative divisions

The Philippines is governed as a unitary state, with the exception of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM),[330] although there has been several steps towards decentralization within the unitary framework.[331][332] A 1991 law devolved some powers to local governments.[333] The country is divided into 17 regions, 81 provinces, 146 cities, 1,488 municipalities, and 42,036 barangays.[334] Regions other than Bangsamoro serve primarily to organize the provinces of the country for administrative convenience.[335] As of 2015, Calabarzon was the most populated region while the National Capital Region (NCR) the most densely populated.[336]