Country profile: 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.
Two presidents of the Philippines were forced from office by "people power" in the space of 15 years.
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.
President Ferdinand Marcos, a close ally of the US, imposed martial law
in the early 1970s but was forced to step down in 1986 after mass
demonstrations cost him the support of the armed forces.
the country has remained a democracy it has enjoyed little stability.
President Joseph Estrada was forced out of office in 2001 after months
of protests at his corrupt rule, and there have been a number of coup
attempts against his successor, Gloria Arroyo.
The church's influence is strong in Asia's largest Catholic nation
On the southern island of Mindanao, rebels have been fighting for a
separate Islamic state within the mainly-Catholic country. The
decades-long conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives. Sporadic
violence has continued despite a 2003 ceasefire and peace talks.
Abu Sayyaf group on the island of Jolo has a history of violence
towards hostages, and the government has declared all-out war on it
over its alliance with al-Qaeda.
Although it once boasted one
of the region's best-performing economies, the Philippines is saddled
with a large national debt and tens of millions of people live in
poverty. The economy is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars
sent home each year by the huge Filipino overseas workforce.
The Philippines has the highest birth rate in Asia, and forecasters say the population could double within three decades.
generally avoid taking strong measures to curb the birth rate for fear
of antagonising the Catholic Church, which opposes artificial methods
- Full name: Republic of the Philippines
- Population: 92 million (UN, 2009)
- Capital: Manila
- Area: 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
- Major languages: Filipino, English (both official)
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Philippine peso = 100 centavos
- Main exports: Electrical machinery, clothing, food and live animals, chemicals, timber products
- GNI per capita: US $1,890 (World Bank, 2008)
- Internet domain: .ph
- International dialling code: +63
President: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Gloria Arroyo's efforts to tackle corruption and to focus on economic reform have been undermined by a string of scandals.
President Arroyo: Her first term brought mixed results
The president won a second six-year term in June 2004, defeating her main rival, the film star Fernando Poe Junior.
a year later her popularity rating had fallen to a record low amid
opposition claims that she cheated in the 2004 elections. Opponents
also levelled corruption allegations against her husband and other
She apologised to the nation for talking to an
election official about her hopes for victory in the run-up to the 2004
poll, but denied any wrongdoing. Two subsequent attempts to impeach her
Mrs Arroyo faces the challenge of delivering on
her promises to create jobs and to improve living standards. Social and
economic reforms introduced during her first term did little to ease
poverty and the country's debt burden.
constitutional reform, proposing to swap the country's US-style
presidential system for a parliamentary government.
She has taken a strong line on law and order and allied herself closely to US President George W Bush's "war on terror".
Arroyo comes from the political elite in the Philippines. She is an
economist whose father was president in the early 1960s.
was elevated from vice president to president in 2001 after protests
led to the ousting of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada. In 2003 she
survived an attempt by military mutineers to unseat her.
keen to emphasise her Christian faith. Observers contrasted her
approach with the hard-drinking lifestyle favoured by President
The Philippines has a two-house legislature - the
Congress - which comprises a House of Representatives, with up to 250
members, and a 24-member Senate.
Powerful commercial interests control or influence much of the media.
lively TV scene is dominated by the free-to-air networks ABS-CBN and
GMA, which attract the lion's share of viewing. Some Manila-based
networks broadcast in local languages. The country has a well-developed
cable TV system.
Films, comedies and entertainment programmes
attract the largest audiences. Many TV broadcasters also operate radio
networks. There are more than 700 FM and mediumwave (AM) radio
stations, most of them commercial.
Press freedom is guaranteed
under the 1987 constitution. The private press is vigorous, with
tabloid newspapers being prone to sensationalism.
violence against media workers is a problem. Reporters Without Borders
noted in 2008 that "constant threats and physical attacks make some
regions, particularly Mindanao island, dangerous areas".
By 2007 there were 14 million internet users (ITU).
- ABS-CBN - commercial
- GMA Network - commercial
- IBC (Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp) - government-owned