Countries that are near the Philippines are primarily Taiwan and China to the north and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south. Because the Philippines is located on an island group, it has no countries that directly border it.
The Philippines is composed of 7,107 islands, only 2,000 of which are inhabited. Most Filipinos live on only 11 of these islands, with the center of population on the island Luzon, where the capital city Manila is located. Outlying areas are subject to sometimes heavy guerrilla activity both by Muslim separatists and the communist New People's Army. Malaysia is the closest country to the Philippines, lying only a few miles southwest of the Sulu Archipelago and the Palawan island group.
While the Philippines are located between the local powerhouses China and Indonesia, the United States provides the country with a great deal of aid and support. This is partly because the Philippines was a U.S. territory for nearly 50 years, but also partly because it is between communist and Islamic states. During World War II, the Philippines were strategically critical to the U.S. Navy. Japan fought hard to capture the islands in order to deprive the U.S. of this convenient base, and it took decades for the Philippines to recover from the resulting devastation.