Location: The Philippines comprises an archipelago of some
7,107 islands located off Southeast Asia, between the South
China Sea on the west and the Philippine Sea on the east.
The major islands are Luzon in the north, the Visayan Islands
in the middle, and Mindanao in the south.
Size: The total area is about 300,000 square kilometers, including
about 298,000 square kilometers of land and about 2,000 square
kilometers of water. The Philippines stretches about 1,850
kilometers from Y’Ami Island in the north to Sibutu Island
in the south and is about 1,000 kilometers at its widest point
east to west. The bulk of the population lives on 11 of the
Land Boundaries: The Philippines has no land boundaries. Nearby neighbors are Taiwan to the north, Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest.
Disputed Territory: The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Vietnam hold conflicting claims to portions of the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands, which are called the Kalayaan (Freedom) Islands in the Philippines. The Philippines also disputes Malaysia’s claim to the state of Sabah.
Length of Coastline: Estimates of the total length of the coastline range from 17,500 kilometers (official Philippine figure) to 36,289 kilometers (U.S. figure).
Maritime Claims: The Philippines claims a territorial sea of up to 100 nautical miles from the nearest coastline, an area that includes the entire Sulu Sea and the northern part of the Celebes Sea. A presidential decree in 1978 announced additional baselines, which in effect extended the territorial sea to claim an area up to 285 nautical miles in breadth in the South China Sea west of Palawan Island. This area encompasses the Spratly Islands. The Philippines also claims its continental shelf to the depth of exploitation and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles from its baselines.
Topography: The Philippines consists of volcanic islands, including active volcanoes, with mostly mountainous interiors surrounded by flat lowlands and alluvial plains of varying widths along the coasts. The elevation ranges from sea level to the highest point of Mount Apo on Mindanao Island, at 2,954 meters above sea level.
Principal Rivers: The longest river is the Cagayan (Río Grande de Cagayan) on Luzon, about 350 kilometers in length. Other principal rivers on Luzon include the Abra, Bicol, Chico, and Pampanga. The Pasig River is only about 25 kilometers in length but serves as the main waterway, flowing between Laguna de Bay, the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines, through metropolitan Manila to Manila Bay. Principal rivers on Mindanao include the Mindanao River (known as the Pulangi River in its upper reaches), and the Agusan. The St. Paul River on Palawan is an eight-kilometer-long underground river.
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Climate: The Philippines has a tropical marine climate, with the northeast monsoon, which produces a cool, dry season from December to February, and the southwest monsoon, which brings rain and high temperatures from May to October. Between March and May, hot, dry weather prevails. Temperatures in Manila range from 21˜2˜C to 3C, with an average annual temperature of 27˜C. Temperatures elsewhere in the Philippines have been recorded at more than 37˜C. The average monthly humidity ranges from 71 percent in March to 85 percent in September. Annual rainfall is heavy but varies widely throughout the Philippines, ranging from 965 millimeters in some sheltered valleys and the southern tip of the island of Mindanao to 5,000 millimeters along the mountainous east coasts of the islands of Luzon, Samar, and the northern tip of Mindanao. The Philippines lies astride the typhoon belt and experiences 15 to 20 typhoons a year from July through October, of which five or six may cause serious destruction and death.
Natural Resources: The major natural mineral resources include coal, cobalt, copper, chromite, gold, gypsum, iron, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, salt, silver, and sulfur. There are lesser deposits of bauxite, lead, mercury, molybdenum, and zinc. Other important resources are geothermal and hydroelectric power, fish, and timber.
Land Use: Out of a total land area of about 300,000 square kilometers, about 92,000 square kilometers are farmland, and about 72,000 square kilometers are forest land, including 65,000 square kilometers of public land and 7,000 square kilometers of privately owned land. Forest area fell steadily from 270,000 square kilometers in 1900 to 80,000 square kilometers in 1970 and to 54,000 square kilometers in 1985. Although forest area subsequently grew from its low in 1985 to its current level in 2004, deforestation is still a major problem. According to the agricultural census of 2002, the number of farms decreased from 4.6 million in 1991 to 4.5 million in 2002, and farm area declined during the same period, from about 100,000 square kilometers in 1991 to its current level.
Environmental Factors: The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, particularly typhoons, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis, lying as it does astride the typhoon belt, in the active volcanic region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” and in the geologically unstable region between the Pacific and Eurasian tectonic plates. The Philippines also suffers major human-caused environmental degradation aggravated by a high annual population growth rate, including loss of agricultural lands, deforestation, soil erosion, air and water pollution, improper disposal of solid and toxic wastes, loss of coral reefs, mismanagement and abuse of coastal resources, and overfishing.
Time Zone: The Philippines is in one time zone (Asia/Manila), 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.