Philippines country profile

  • 15 July 2016
  • From the section Asia
Map of the Philippines

More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them.

Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms.

The Philippines - a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th century Spanish king - was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid.

Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution.

The US is a close ally and has provided military aid to help combat Muslim and communist insurgencies.


Republic of the Philippines

Capital: Manila

  • Population 96.5 million

  • Area 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)

  • Major languages Filipino, English (both official)

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 66 years (men), 73 years (women)

  • Currency Philippine peso

Getty Images


President: Rodrigo Duterte

Image copyright Getty Images

Incendiary politician Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as the Philippines' 16th president in June 2016.

The former mayor of Davao City won a landslide victory at the polls following his foul-mouthed populist tirades that exposed deep voter anger at the political establishment.

His stunningly successful election campaign focused almost entirely on the scourges of crime, drug abuse and corruption, with voters seemingly undeterred by his pledge to have tens of thousands of offenders killed.

During his 22 years as mayor of Davao City, Mr Duterte denied any involvement in the running of vigilante death squads, which human rights groups say have killed more than 1,000 people since the late 1990s.

His incendiary rhetoric has alarmed many of his critics. In his inauguration speech, Mr Duterte conceded that his methods may appear "unorthodox and verge on the illegal" but the former prosecutor conceded he knew right from wrong and would abide by the rule of law during his six-year term.


Image copyright Getty Images

Powerful commercial interests control or influence much of the media.

The lively TV scene is dominated by free-to-air networks ABS-CBN and GMA. Some Manila-based networks broadcast in local languages. Cable TV has extensive reach.

Films, comedies and entertainment shows attract the largest audiences.

There are more than 600 radio stations. With around 100 outlets, Manila Broadcasting Company is the largest network.

The private press is vigorous, comprising some 500 newspaper titles. The most popular are Filipino-language tabloids, which can be prone to sensationalism.


1542 - Spanish expedition claims the islands and names them the Philippines after the heir to the Spanish throne. Three centuries of Spanish rule fail to conquer Muslim areas in the south.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Spain's fabled galleons plied the Pacific trade route between Manila and Acapulco

1890s - Beginnings of insurrection against Spanish rule.

1898 - During the Spanish-American War, the US navy destroys the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. Spain cedes the Philippines to the US, which proclaims military rule and begins to forcibly incorporate Muslim areas.

1941-1944 - The Philippines are occupied by Japan during the Second World War, but are retaken by the US.

1946 - The islands are granted full independence and renamed the Republic of the Philippines.

1965 - Ferdinand Marcos is elected president; he declares martial law in 1972.

1983 - Anti-Marcos lawyer Benigno Aquino is assassinated at Manila's airport as he returns from exile.

1986 - Marcos ousted in "people power" revolt after claiming victory over Aquino's widow in an election that many believe was stolen.

2001 - President Joseph Estrada is forced out by a military-backed "people power" uprising.

2001 - Troops comb the jungles of south-western Basilan island for Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists holding 20 hostages, including three Americans.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ferdinand Marcos headed an authoritarian regime from 1966 until he fled a popular uprising in 1986. His wife Imelda wielded considerable influence

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