The islands are divided into three groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon itself, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Batanes Islands,Palawan,. The Visayas is the group of islands in the central Philippines, the largest of which are: Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The Mindanao islands include Mindanao itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago, composed primarily of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
The Philippine archipelago lies in Southeast Asia in a position that has led to its becoming a cultural crossroads, a place where Malays, Arabs, Chinese, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese and others have interacted to forge a unique cultural and racial blend. The archipelago numbers some 7,107 islands and the nation claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of from its shores. The Philippines occupies an area that stretches for 1,850 kilometers from about the fifth to the twentieth parallels north latitude. The total land area is slightly more than 300,000 square kilometers. Only approximately 1,000 of its islands are populated, and fewer than one-half of these are larger than 2.5 square kilometers. Eleven islands make up 95 percent of the Philippine landmass, and two of these — Luzon and Mindanao — measure 105,000 and 95,000 square kilometers, respectively. They, together with the cluster of the Visayan Islands that separate them, represent the three principal regions of the archipelago that are identified by the three stars on the Philippine flag. Topographically, the Philippines is broken up by the sea, which gives it one of the longest coastlines of any nation in the world. Most Filipinos live on or near the coast, where they can easily supplement their diet from approximately 2,000 species of fish.
Off the coast of eastern Mindanao is the Philippine Trough, which descends to a depth of 10,430 meters. The Philippines is part of a western Pacific arc system that is characterized by active volcanoes. Among the most notable peaks are Mount Mayon near Legazpi City, Taal Volcano south of Manila, and Mount Apo on Mindanao. All of the Philippine islands are prone to earthquakes. The northern Luzon highlands, or Cordillera Central, rise to between 2,500 and 2,750 meters, and, together with the Sierra Madre in the northeastern portion of Luzon and the mountains of Mindanao, boast rain forests that provide refuge for numerous upland tribal groups. The rain forests also offer prime habitat for more than 500 species of birds, including the Philippine eagle (or monkey-eating eagle), some 800 species of orchids, and some 8,500 species of flowering plants.
The country's most extensive river systems are the Pulangi River, which flows into the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao); the Agusan, in Mindanao which flows north into the Mindanao Sea; the Cagayan in northern Luzon; and the Pampanga, which flows south from east Central Luzon into Manila Bay. Laguna de Bay, east of Manila Bay, is the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines. Several rivers have been harnessed for hydroelectric power.
The Philippines is divided into 178,000 regions with all provinces grouped into one of 16 regions for administrative convenience. The National Capital Region however, is divided into four special districts.
Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Similarly, Laguna and Rizal Province of Calabarzon (Region IV-A) have coastlines on Laguna de Bay. Since lakes do not allow access to seaborne trade, these provinces are still considered to be landlocked.
Four distinct geographic divisions converging at a single point is not uncommon in the Philippines, and there are other points of convergence between five or more divisions that can be found.
The Philippines has a tropical marine climate dominated by a rainy season and a dry season. The summer monsoon brings heavy rains to most of the archipelago from May to October, whereas the winter monsoon brings cooler and drier air from December to February. Manila and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May. Even at this time, however, temperatures rarely rise above 37 °C. Mean annual sea-level temperatures rarely fall below 27 °C. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters in the mountainous east coast section of the country, but less than 1,000 millimeters in some of the sheltered valleys.
Monsoon rains, although hard and drenching, are not normally associated with high winds and waves. But the Philippines sit astride the typhoon belt, and it suffers an annual onslaught of dangerous storms from July through October. These are especially hazardous for northern and eastern Luzon and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions, but Manila gets devastated periodically as well.
In the last decade, the Philippines has been hit severely by natural disasters. In 2005 alone, Central Luzon was hit by both a drought, which sharply curtailed hydroelectric power, and by a typhoon that flooded practically all of low-lying Manila's streets. Still more damaging was the 1990 earthquake that devastated a wide area in Luzon, including Baguio and other northern areas. The city of Cebu and nearby areas were struck by a typhoon that killed more than a hundred people, sank vessels, destroyed part of the sugar crop, and cut off water and electricity for several days. The Philippines is prone to about 18-21 typhoons per year. Of course the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption also damaged much of Central Luzon, the lahar burying towns and farmland, and the ashes affecting global temperatures.
Building construction is undertaken with natural disasters in mind. Most rural housing has consisted of nipa huts that are easily damaged but are inexpensive and easy to replace. Most urban buildings are steel and concrete structures designed (not always successfully) to resist both typhoons and earthquakes. Damage is still significant, however, and many people are displaced each year by typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. In 1987 alone the Department of Social Welfare and Development helped 2.4 million victims of natural disasters.
The islands are volcanic in origin, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and are mostly mountainous. The highest point in the country is the peak of Mount Apo in Mindanao, which is 2,954 m above sea level. The second highest point can be found on Luzon at Mount Pulog, a peak 2,842 m above sea level.
Many volcanoes in the country are active, the most recent eruption being that of Mount Pinatubo on Luzon in 1991. Mount Mayon is another of the active volcanoes and has the world's most perfectly-shaped cone. Mayon has a violent history of 47 eruptions since 1616 and another violent eruption is currently feared. Taal Volcano, also located on Luzon, is one of the Decade Volcanoes.
The islands typically have narrow coastal plains and numerous swift-running streams. Every island has sand beaches, but few open onto spacious lowlands. There are few large plains or navigable rivers. The longest river is the Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan in northern Luzon measuring 354 kilometers. In Mindanao, the longest river is the Mindanao River or Rio Grande de Mindanao which drains Maguindanao and other parts in western-central Mindanao. Agusan River drains eastern Mindanao.
Most of the islands used to be covered by tropical rainforests. However, illegal logging has reduced forest cover to less than 10% of the total land area.
The Cordilleras consists of 2, sometimes 3, mountain ranges that are found in northwestern central Luzon. The first, called Caraballo del Sur, forms the nucleus of the system and has its highest peaks in the border between the provinces of Abra, Ilocos Norte and Cagayan. The next, called Caraballo Occidentalles, is further divided into 2 ranges, the Cordillera Norte and Cordillera Central. They line the central portions of the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The Caraballos (Caraballo de Baler) start where the Sierra Madre and the Cordilleras meet. They are found south of Cagayan Valley, northeast of the Central Luzon Plains.
The Leyte-Samar-Biliran corridor is the only bridged major islands in the country, enabling vehicular transport to any point in these islands. Leyte is connected to Samar by the San Juanico Bridge and Biliran is connected to Leyte by the Biliran Bridge. Forming the easternmost islands of the Visayas, the islands are generally characterized with central mountain ranges with gently rolling terrain sloping to the coastal plains. The climate is generally Af (tropical rainforest) in the Koppen system, described as a climate with rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year. These islands are politically grouped into the Eastern Visayas region.
Coastline: 36,289 km
measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles (370 km)
territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nautical miles (185 km) from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nautical miles (528 km) in breadth.
Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper
arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 12%
permanent pastures: 4%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 19% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 15,800 km² (1993 est.)
Environment - current issues: uncontrolled deforestation in watershed areas; soil erosion; air and water pollution in Manila; increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps which are important fish breeding grounds
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification
Distances from Manila:
Ten largest cities
The following is a list of the ten largest cities in the country in terms of population, with their population according to the 2000 census. Component cities and municipalities of Metro Manila and Metro Cebu are taken as one to show the extent of urbanization.
|Rank||City||Population in 2000|
|6.||Cagayan de Oro City||461,877|
|8.||General Santos City||411,822|