Philippines -- Geography --
Official Name: Federal Republic of the Philippines
Form of government : Democratic
Capital : Manila
Official Currency: Pesos
Religion: Predominantly Christian (Catholics - 82.9%, Protestants - 5.4%, Islam - 4.6%)
Land Area: 299,764 sq km
The Philippine archipelago is composed of 7,107 islands. Its length measures 1,850 kilometers, starting from the point near the southern tip of Taiwan and ending close to northern Borneo. Its breadth is about 965 kilometers. The Philippine coastline adds up to 17,500 km. The topography is characterized by alluvial plains, narrow valleys, rolling hills and high mountains. Most of the islands are of volcanic origin. There are 37 volcanoes in the Philippines, of which 18 are still active volcanoes. The Philippines has suffered the most from the magestic power of the elements – for just a century (1900 - 2001) 757 different kinds of disasters were registered.
The country is divided into three geographical areas: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It has 17 regions, 81 provinces, 118 cities, 1,510 municipalities, and 41,995 barangayas. (Barangay - The smallest political unit into which cities and municipalities in the Philippines are divided).
Philippines -- History --
Before the Spanish conquistadores came, a thriving community flourished on the banks of the Pasig River. It was called "Maynilad", after the nilad plant. The lord of the riverside kingdom was Raha Sulayman who held court on the south side of the river while his uncle, Lakandula, ruled on the north side. The Spaniards were set on conquering this community. After the savage Battle of Bangkusay, Sulayman was killed. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, head of the Spanish expedition, promptly declared Manila the capital of the new colonies won by Spain. On June 24, 1571, Manila was declared the capital of the entire achipelago. Delighted by this conquest, the King of Spain awarded the city a coat of arms and the grandiose title: "The Noble and Ever Loyal City". Soon, Manila became a replica of a European medieval city. There were churches, palaces and city halls built in the Spanish baroque style. Work began on building a wall around the city. It took 150 years to finish it. It became known as Intramuros.
Beautiful as it was, Intramuros stood as a perfect illustration of the discrimination at that time against the natives called Indios. Although it was built by Indio workers and Chinese artisans, Intramuros was meant only for the clergy and the Spanish nobility. The natives could not enter except to work as servants.
Over the centuries, the Spanish rule was occasionally threatened by attacks from the sea and by internal uprisings. The Chinese, Dutch and British all tried to lay siege on Manila but were unsuccessful. But the 1880's saw the birth of a reform movement led by Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Lopez Jaena and Jose Rizal (the national hero). This reform movement ultimately led to a revolution – 1898. The most lasting legacy of the Spanish rule was the Catholic religion which makes the Philippines the only Christian nation in Asia.
1902 was the beginning of the American era, a period characterized by the expansion of public education, advances in health care and the introduction of democratic government. 1902 was the beginning of the American era, a period characterized by the expansion of public education, advances in health care and the introduction of democratic government. For three years, Manila was occupied by the Japanese imperial forces. Life at that time was made difficult by strict Japanese military rule. When the American troops entered Manila to liberate it, they had to bomb the city to dislodge the tenacious Japanese. Manila was devastated.
On July 4, 1946 the Philippine flag was hoisted signalling the recognition of Philippine independence.
Philippines -- Economy --
Overview: Due to the combined effect of the Asian financial crisis and poor weather conditions, GDP growth in 1998 fell to about-0.5% from 5% in 1997, but recovered to about 3% in 1999 and 3.6% in 2000. Upon assuming office, President Arroyo and her Economic Team put in place an economic plan to ensure that the economy is on track for equitable development and sustainable growth.The Philippine Economic Plan integrates a well-coordinated set of strategic fiscal and monetary policy priorities that support a sound fiscal and debt position, low rates and inflation, and healthy current account levels. The reforms turned out to be effective. From the first quarter of 2005 with a GDP of 4.2%, it ended the year 2006 with a GDP of 5.4%. Moreover, The implementation of the expanded Value Added Tax (VAT) in November 2005 boosted confidence in the government's fiscal capacity and helped to strengthen the peso, making it East Asia's best performing currency in 2005-06. Investors and credit rating institutions will continue to look for effective implementation of the new VAT .
Main industries :electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining, fishing.
Exports-commodities: semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil, fruits.
Imports- commodities: electronic products, mineral fuels, machinery and transport equipment, iron and steel, textile fabrics, grains, chemicals, plastic.
Philippines -- Life style --
The people of the Philippines are called Filipinos. The Filipino is basically of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, American, Spanish and Arab blood. From a long history of Western colonial rule, interspersed with the visits of merchants and traders, evolved a people of a unique blend of east and west, both in appearance and culture. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for, is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity in the 16th century.
Filipinos are probably one of the few, if not the only, English-proficient Oriental people today. Filipino, which is based on Tagalog, is the official national language, with English considered as the country's unofficial one, also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education.
The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions. There are more than 111 dialects spoken, owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups.
Philippines -- Political system, law and government --
The Philippines has been governed under three constitutions, the first of which was promulgated in 1935, during the period of U.S. administration.Under the regime of President Ferdinand E. Macos, the old constitution was abolished and replaced by a new constitution (adopted in January 1973) that changed the Philippine government from a U.S.-style presidential system to a parliamentary form. Subsequent amendments and modifications of this constitution replaced the former bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and gave the president even more powers, including the ability to dissolve the legislature and (from 1981) to appoint a prime minister from among members of the legislature.
The new Philippine Constitution was ratified in early 1987, signalling the country's return to democracy.
Chief of state: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (since 30 June 2004) and Vice-President Noli de Castro (since 30 June 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government.
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission of Appointments' elections: president and vice-president elected on separate tickets by popular vote for six-year terms; election last held 16 May 2004 (next elections to be held on May 2010).
Bicameral Congress or Kongreso consists of the Senate or Senado (24 seats: one-half elected every three years; members elected by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Kapulungan Ng Mga Kinatawan (214 seats: members elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms. Additional members may be appointed by the President but the Constitution prohibits the House of Representatives from having more than 250 members) Elections: Senate - last held 16 May 2004 (next elections to be held on May 2010); House of Representatives - elections last held 16 May 2004 (next elections to be held on May 2010) .
Supreme Court (justices are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council and serve until 70 years of age).