The Philippines, a country of more than 7,000 islands, became a Spanish colony during the 16th century. The islands were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War but became a self-governing commonwealth in 1935. During the World War II, the Japanese occupied the Philippines. Americans and Filipinos forces fought together in 1944-45 to defeat the Japanese army. The Republic of the Philippines became independent on July 4, 1946.
In 1986, the 20-year rule of the pro-US President Ferdinand Marcos ended when a “people power” movement in Manila forced him out on charges of corruption. Marcos was replaced by the popular Corazon Aquino, but her presidency faced coup attempts and resulting political instability. Another president, Joseph Estrada, had to relinquish power in 2001, following more protests and an impeachment trial. Estrada was found guilty of massive corruption and jailed for life in September 2007, though he later won a presidential pardon.
The current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is serving her second six-year term. She has made efforts to deal with corruption and focus on economic reform, though her plans have been hampered by several scandals, including claims by the opposition of election fraud.
The Philippines has faced threats from militants groups, including a few that are on the US Government’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list. In 2006 and 2007, the government forces met with success in capturing or killing key terrorist leaders. On the southern island of Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels have been fighting for a separate Islamic state within the mainly-Catholic country. Years of conflict have resulted in the deaths of more than 120,000 people. Despite ceasefire and peace talks, the violence continues.
The Philippines was once a successful Asian economy, but now the country faces a large national debt and abject poverty for tens of millions of people. The country benefits from money sent home by Filipinos living and working abroad. The Philippines is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
Sources: BBC, The Economist, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Republic of the Philippines
Form of Government:
Year of Independence:
1898 (independence from Spain); 1946 (from the US)
Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)
300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects - Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan
68 years (men), 74 years (women)
1 Philippine peso = 100 centavos
Clothing, food (fruits) and live animals, chemicals, timber products, semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$3,300 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: