Philippines Encyclopedia

Philippines Encyclopedia

Philippines A state in Southeast Asia, formed by the island group of the same namelocated between the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea and the Celebes Sea. The major islands of the vast archipelago are: Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol.

  1. Physical characteristics

The archipelago extends between 20 ° 40 ‘and 4 ° 30’ lat. N and between 117 ° and 126 ° 45 ′ long. E Gr., And is made up of about 7000 islands, of which over 6500 have an area of ​​less than 2 km 2 and less than 900 are inhabited. Most of the islands are NS aligned, between the Luzon Strait to the North and the Moluccas to the S; mountainous, are what emerges from a bundle of submerged chains; from this alignment two other subparallel alignments detach themselves towards the SW, enclosing the Sulu Sea, composed of the Calamian and Palawan islands, to the North, and the Sulu Islands, to S. ‘area, and more decisively China) sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, a coral formation in the South China Sea, in the platform of which the presence of hydrocarbons is assumed.

The coasts of the Philippines (over 36,000 km of development) are jagged, but not very portuous; large inlets open up on the islands of Luzon and Mindanao. The relief is Cenozoic and connects with that of the Sunda Archipelago. On the island of Luzon, the Sierra Madre and the Cordillera Central develop in the direction of the meridians, culminating in the Pulog (2934 m). The two chains then merge into a single system that bends towards SE, characterized by numerous volcanoes, the highest of which is Mayon, 2525 m high and active (in the Philippines there are about 400 volcanoes, 22 of which active and protagonists of violent eruptions, such as the one, in 1991, of the Pinatubo). The St Bernardino Strait divides Luzon from the Visayan Islands, where soaring peaks rise from plateaus, terraces and floodplains. In Mindanao the mountain ranges return to follow the meridians and are interrupted by volcanic systems, such as the Apo, the highest peak of the archipelago (2954 m). The island of Palawan is a whole mountain range, about 450 km long, culminating in Mantalingajan (2100 m).

From the geological point of view, the Philippines consist of land not prior to the Mesozoic. Sedimentary rocks, volcanic products and, to the South, coral formations rest on a crystalline base. With the other islands bordering the western Pacific, the Philippines constitute the so-called ‘arch-pit systems’. They represent, in fact, an intraoceanic island arc seat of volcanic and seismic activity, bordered towards the land by a shallow expanding sea basin (rear-arc basin: South China Sea), while towards the sea there are deep pits (Fossa delle Philippines), in which the pacific oceanic plate sinks below the volcanic arc (➔ tectonics).

The climate is influenced not only by latitude, subequatorial, but also by monsoons, especially in the northern sector. The temperature is high and constant: in Manila the average of the coldest month is 25.3 ° C, that of the hottest month is 27.5 ° C. The element that most differentiates the seasons is rainfall (from over 3000 mm on the E side to 1500 mm on the W side). At the northern end the rains are winter, in the S they are constant; in the western areas there is a dry season from November to March, in the eastern ones it rains in winter and summer. From April to December, with greater intensity during the monsoon reversal phase, violent typhoons are generated in the area, which move towards the opposite shores of the South China Sea and cause serious damage.

At one time the archipelago was over half covered by rainforests, up to 1500 m, where coniferous forests and formations of prairies take over; too intense exploitation of forest resources (mahogany, teak, rosewood) has reduced the coverage to about 20% of the total area, by more than 2% less per year. The spontaneous vegetation includes palm trees, bamboo, banana trees, spices, mangroves along the coasts, orchids, textile plants; the fauna is also very varied, with mammals (dwarf buffalo, deer, wild pig), many straight ones; them, birds, fresh and brackish water fish, molluscs (including pearl oysters).

The hydrographic system is formed by perennial but short watercourses, given the division of the territory, and by lagoon and lake water bodies, the largest of which are located to the South of Manila: the Laguna de Bay and Lake Taa, where the Taal volcano rises.

  1. Population

With the exception of the pygmoid groups (➔ Aeta ; Negritos), the indigenous population is made up of Indonesians, divided into a large number of ethnic groups. Some, in the forest and mountainous regions, live in archaic conditions, practicing hoe farming or even hunting and gathering, and preserving Indonesian characteristics (clothing, weapons, housing, cultivation techniques) and partly the old religions. The residents who derive from more recent migrations (Neo-Indonesians) have had centuries-old contacts with the Chinese and Spaniards and converted to Catholicism.

The population of the Philippines (about 8 million at the end of the 19th century), after a serious contraction due, in the first years of the US occupation, to epidemics, conflicts and natural disasters, began to grow, surpassing in 1948 the 19 million units. Sanitation improvements, a drop in infant mortality and an extended life span produced a strong and constant increase in residents: 27.1 million in 1960, over 47 million in 1980, about 76.5 at the 2000 census; 2009 estimates estimate them to be almost 100 million, for an average density of 326 residents / km 2. Despite a negative migration rate (at least 6 million Filipino emigrants reside abroad: United States, Europe western, Canada, etc.) and a slow reduction in the birth rate, the natural increase is very high, just under 18 ‰ per year. Qualitative indicators are improving, such as the literacy rate, now over 96% of the school-age population. The cities exert a strong attraction on the rural population, who abandon the small traditional villages; the residents in the city have grown rapidly: they were about 40% around 1980, they would have reached 65% in 2008.

In 2008, about 16 million Filipinos lived in the agglomeration that belongs to the capital, Manila, and the former capital, Quezon City: most of the country’s modern economic activities are concentrated here. The population is however unevenly distributed: in Luzon, on about 30% of the country’s surface, over 50% of the total population lives, and on the island of Cebu there is a density of 700 residents / km 2, while Mindanao is much less populated.

Manila, the capital until 1948 and again since 1976, is located on the island of Luzon; main cultural, economic and port center of the country, rebuilt in almost futuristic forms after the Second World War, it is conurbated with the adjacent Quezon City (capital from 1948 to 1976). Other important cities are Davao and Zamboanga, in Mindanao, and Cebu, on the island of the same name.

The Catholic religion prevails (83%); Protestant denominations are followed by 5% of the population and the Islamic religion by a similar percentage.

  1. Economic conditions

The economy of the Philippines, largely agricultural and backward, undergoes intense modernization efforts, which are beginning to have positive effects on incomes and on productive diversification. About 40% of Filipinos, however, are below the extreme poverty line, and the percentage rises to 70% among the Muslim minority, which fuels their opposition to the government. The country it is marked by the agricultural structures set by the Spaniards (large estates) and by the United States; yes (plantations). Despite the attempts at agrarian reform, the access of small farmers to the possession of arable land is almost guaranteed only by the cultivation of new areas, taken from the forest. A first industrialization, limited to the agri-food sector, was addressed by the State (development plans) with the help of US investments, but the economic structure was not deeply affected; later it was preferred to focus on private capital. The overall results cannot be considered negative, if we take into account the starting level after the achievement of independence and the political and structural difficulties experienced by the Philippines in the following decades; but, in the face of a very large potential market, internal consumption remains limited; and, despite the availability of educated labor, investments are held back by the low credibility of the political-economic system. Foreign trade, however, sees an increase in the export of industrial products, largely with a high technological content.

Agriculture, still in 2008, occupied 35% of the active population of the country, but provided less than 15% of the gross domestic product. The main food crops are rice (15 million t in 2005), especially in the Luzon and Panay islands, and corn (5 million t); the production of cassava, potatoes, vegetables and fruit is significant. Among the plantation crops, sugar cane and especially coconut palm (copra, nuts and oil) prevail, cultivated on a quarter of the usable area; with tropical fruit and timber (almost 16 million m 3) they are destined for abroad. Widespread is the breeding of cattle, especially buffaloes, pigs, goats and farmyard animals. Fish products are of great importance in nutrition.

Mineral resources are varied, but on the whole modest, with the exception of gold and oil (1.3 million tonnes in 2006), insufficient for domestic demand. 20% of electricity is produced in geothermal plants, and 16% in hydroelectric plants, while the remainder depends on fossil fuels.

The industry, which for about three quarters is located in the Manila region, has a remarkable productivity (in 2008 it provided over 31.6% of the gross domestic product, occupying just 15% of the assets): in addition to traditional food production and textiles (recently greatly strengthened), chemical, metallurgical, the Philippine industry has seen the growth of the mechanical sector (cars, ships) and of the electrotechnical and electronic sectors, which supply a large part of exports. The service sector (over 57% of GDP with 48% of the workforce) is underpowered, despite the increases recorded, also due to the weakness of the consumer market and the poor reliability of the banking-financial system. Tourism is of some importance (2.8 million admissions in 2006).

Terrestrial communications are decent especially in the region around Manila; the roads cover about 200,000 km, 10% of which are asphalted; internal connections are also ensured by national airlines, which in 2006 carried 8.3 million passengers; for goods, the merchant fleet is relevant, but is in decline due to international competition (besides Manila, the main ports are Cebu, Iloilo and Davao). The main trade correspondents of the companies are the United States, Japan, China and Singapore.

Philippines Encyclopedia