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Flag of Philippines
BASIC INFORMATION

Full Country Name: The Republic of the Philippines


Country Profile: Philippines

Map of Philippines
Area: 300,000 sq km (117,187 sq mi)
Population: 89 million (2006 estimate)
Capital City: Metro Manila (10.4m)
People: Christian Malay (91.5%), Muslim Malay (4%), Chinese (1.5%) and other (3%)
Languages: Filipino, based on Tagalog, is the national language, English is an official language for education and communication.
Religion(s): Roman Catholic (83%), Protestant (9%), Muslim (5%) and others (3%).
Currency: Peso
Major political organisations: Main political parties are: the Lakas- Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) founded by former President Fidel Ramos and headed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) headed by Eduardo 'Danding' Cojuangco Jr. and the Liberal Party (LP) headed by Senator Manuel Roxas II.
Government: Republic
Head of State and Head of Government: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Vice President:Noli De Castro
Foreign Minister: Alberto Romulo
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations (UN), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Colombo Plan, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), G24, Group of 77 at the United Nations (G77), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Bank, Cairns Group.

GEOGRAPHY

The Philippines consists of over 7,100 islands covering 300,000 square kilometres (just less than the British Isles) divided into 3 main areas: Luzon (which includes Manila) in the north, the Visayas together with Palawan and Mindoro in the central area, and Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to the south. The archipelago is 65% mountainous, 35% coastal lowlands. The country has a tropical climate with a typhoon season.

POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was elected the 14th President of the Republic in the May 2004 national elections after first assuming power in a military-backed civilian uprising in January 2001 known as 'People Power II' or 'Edsa Dos' (see ''Longer Historical Perspective' below). She was elected by a margin of over a million votes. Fernando Poe Jr., the main opposition candidate, disputed the election results but died before the case could be resolved by the Supreme Court.

On February 24, 2006, President Arroyo declared a state of national emergency due to an alleged conspiracy to bring down the government. A newspaper office was raided and some high profile arrests of opposition figures made. The proclamation and these actions drew widespread criticism and the President lifted the declaration on March 3, 2006. The political opposition filed two impeachment complaints against the President, one in July 2005 and the other in July 2006. The House of Representatives have dismissed both complaints.

President Macapagal Arroyo's main policy priorities include (a) economic reform (see 'Economy' below), (b) poverty reduction (c) infrastructure development and (d) the fight against terrorism (see 'Recent Internal Developments' below).

System of Government/Elections

The Philippines' system is currently modelled on that of the US. There is an executive Presidency and a bicameral legislature (Congress), comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Presidential term of office is 6 years (Presidents are normally limited to one term).

The Senate has 24 members and Senators are elected for six-year terms. The House of Representatives has 208 directly elected members, and up to 52 selected by party list. Representatives are elected for three-year terms. Elections for seats in half the Senate and the House of Representatives were held in May 2007. The Opposition won the majority of the Senate seats available, but the President's support in the lower House was strengthened.

There are currently ongoing discussions and initiatives for constitutional change, which propose to shift from the current form of government to a parliamentary system.

Recent Internal Developments

Following a period of intense clashes between Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist group in Mindanao, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in early 2003, peace talks resumed in 2005. Both sides have reported that progress is being made, including on the key issue of ancestral domain. The MILF peace talks have strengthened regional relations, with Malaysia acting as mediator and (along with Brunei) stationing troops in Mindanao to monitor the cease-fire. Al Haj Murad Ebrahim succeeded the late Salamat Hashim as MILF Chairman in August 2003.

Peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front (NDF), the front organisation of the communist insurgents who have been fighting against the Philippine government for the last 35 years, and the Philippine government were suspended in June 2001, following the assassination of a Congressman. But they resumed in February 2004, when Norway hosted a new round of peace negotiations. The NDF pulled out of the talks in August 2004 to protest the government's failure to have the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army (NPA) removed from the United States' and European Union's terror listings. The President has since made a commitment to use more force and social solutions to tackle the NPA, which has come against a backdrop of rising tensions between the administration and the legal parliamentary left, as well as a large number of reported extra-judicial killings of left leaning activists.

There is a high threat from terrorism throughout the Philippines. In March 2006, explosive devices were detonated in Jolo, Mindanao, and on a passenger bus in Digos City. Five people were killed and at least 49 injured. A further device was detonated in June in Maguindanao Province, Western Mindanao. Five people were killed and a further 10 injured. Most recently, on 22 November 2007, a bomb exploded in a shopping mall in Kidapawan City, reportedly killing one and injuring at least six others. International terrorist groups, Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, are thought to be behind these attacks, some of whose members are alleged to be using MILF training camps. The President continues to pursue a military solution against these groups, and the Armed Forces have had some recent successes against the Abu Sayyaf.

HISTORY

Longer Historical Perspective

Malays settled the pre colonial Philippines from mainland and island South East Asia. From about the eleventh century, Chinese, Indonesian and Arab traders arrived, making a significant cultural impact. Islam reached the south in the fourteenth century and gradually spread north.

European discovery of the Philippines dates from 1521 with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan. The first Spanish settlement was established in 1565 and Spanish rule continued until 1898 with a 2-year break in 1762–1764 when the British occupied Manila during the Seven Years War. The Spanish introduced Catholicism to the Philippines and their system of government helped to produce the Philippine oligarchy. A nationalist movement developed in the late nineteenth century. The Philippine Revolution began in 1896, the year that the national hero, Dr Jose Rizal, was executed.

After the USA declared war on Spain in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the USA for $20 million at the Treaty of Paris. The nationalist leader, Aguinaldo, declared independence in 1898, but the Americans refused to accept this and the Philippine-American war broke out. Fighting continued until 1902.

In 1901, the Americans introduced a civil government and proceeded to disestablish the Catholic Church and introduce an elective political system under American control with the aim of granting eventual independence. The Americans also dominated the Philippine economy. During World War Two the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese.

Full independence was established in 1946. American influence was maintained, however, by a range of treaties and agreements including 'parity' rights enshrined in the constitution, the 1947 Military Bases Agreement and the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty. For the next 25 years politics were dominated by 2 political parties and power changed hands via regular, if corrupt, elections.

In 1965 Ferdinand Marcos won the presidential election amid student and rural unrest, and in 1972 declared Martial Law. In Mindanao in the south, a separatist Muslim insurgency broke out led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Communist insurgency also escalated. Martial Law was partially lifted in 1981 but the shooting of Marcos's opponent, Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, in 1983 led to a major political crisis. Although Marcos declared himself the winner of the 1986 presidential election, the results were widely held to be fraudulent and Marcos was overthrown by the People's Power Revolution, led by Corazon Aquino and supported by the Catholic Church and parts of the AFP.

President Aquino supervised the introduction of a new constitution in 1987 and the restoration of democratic politics. She survived over 10 attempted military coups. During her presidency, agreement was reached on the withdrawal of the Americans from their Philippine bases at Clarke AB and Subic Bay. Fidel Ramos was elected President in 1992. He reoriented the Philippines towards Asia in general and ASEAN in particular, and generally raised the country's international profile. Ramos initiated successful peace talks with the MNLF and with military rebels, and began talks with the communists.

Joseph Estrada, a populist with a pro-poor manifesto, was elected President in 1998. He failed to produce economic improvements and his government was seen as a reversion to Marcos-style crony capitalism. Peace talks with the communists ground to a halt and there was a rise in Muslim violence in the south, including a spate of kidnappings by the radical and violent Abu Sayyaf group. Estrada pursued a policy of all-out military attack on the Abu Sayyaf as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which included the over-running of the MILF's main camp. Muslim unrest grew and there were concerns about human rights abuses. Estrada's popularity plummeted, especially after allegations were made of corruption and involvement in illegal gambling. Impeachment proceedings were brought against him before the Senate. The Senate’s failure to allow the opening of key evidence from the prosecution led to the second 'People Power' revolution, which removed President Estrada from power. When the Supreme Court declared the Presidency vacant, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the then Vice-President, was sworn in. In September 2007 former president Estrada was found guilty on charges of plunder and corruption and sentenced to life in prison. In October 2007 he was granted a pardon by President Arroyo on the grounds of age and time spent in detention awaiting trial.

This is an external link BBC News Country Timeline: Philippines

ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP Growth: 5.4% (2006)
GNP Growth: 6.2 (2006)
GNP Per Capita: US$ 1,470 (2006)
Unemployment Rate: 7.8% (July 2007)
Average rate of inflation: 6.2% (2006)
Major Industries: Electronic components, Services (including call centres and business process outsourcing), Garments
Major Trading partners: United States, Japan, European Union, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong
Major Investors: United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, European Union
Exports FOB: US$ 47 billion
Imports FOB: US$ 51.5 billion

For several decades the Philippine economy has under-performed in relation to many of its Asian neighbours. However the current government has made economic reform a priority and growth rates are now stable and moving in the right direction. GDP growth for 2007 is likely to reach nearly 7%, making the Philippines one of the strongest performers in South East Asia. Strong growth rates have been combined with a strengthening peso and low inflation (under 4% in 2007).

GDP growth in 2006 was particularly strong in the services sector at 6.3%. The easy availability of English speakers makes the Philippines an increasingly popular location for call centres and business process outsourcing. Domestic consumption of services is also increasing, fuelled by record inflows of remittances from overseas workers. (Remittances account for around 10% of total GNP). Manufacturing grew by 5.4%, in line with the overall economy, but the industrial sector as a whole suffered from a 6% contraction in mining as concerns about the social and environmental impact led to a slow down in government authorisation of new licenses. However a number of new investments have been approved in 2007 and mining remains an area of enormous potential as the Philippines has some of the richest (and least exploited) mineral deposits in the world.

GDP growth in 2006 was particularly strong in the services sector at 6.3%. The easy availability of English speakers makes the Philippines an increasingly popular location for call centres and business process outsourcing. Domestic consumption of services is also increasing, fuelled by record inflows of remittances from overseas workers. (Remittances account for around 10% of total GNP). Manufacturing grew by 5.4%, in line with the overall economy, but the industrial sector as a whole suffered from a 6% contraction in mining as concerns about the social and environmental impact led to a slow down in government authorisation of new licenses. However a number of new investments have been approved in 2007 and mining remains an area of enormous potential as the Philippines has some of the richest (and least exploited) mineral deposits in the world.

The challenge for the government now is to translate improved growth into poverty reduction. Unfortunately the initial success of VAT and corporate tax reforms has not translated into a sustained growth in government revenues and 2007 budget deficit goals will be met only with the help of successful privatisation efforts. Domestic and foreign investment levels also remain stubbornly low, in part due to continued concerns over political instability.

Potential Growth Drivers

Infrastructure development
Power sector privatisation
Mining
Booming sectors e.g. BPO/IT outsourcing, tourism, finance

Potential Growth Challenges

Tax revenue leakage
Slow infrastructure development
Opposition to mining investments
Slow privatisation
High birth rate
Political instability

This is an external link UKTI Country Profile Philippines

Bilateral Trade

UK-Philippines trade relations are good with the balance of trade between the UK and the Philippines historically in the Philippines favour. This remains a continuing trend at a ratio of about 3:1.

In 2006 UK exports to the Philippines were £243.5m.In terms of the UK’s share of world exports to the Philippines the UK remains in 15th position after Japan, USA, Saudi Arabia, Germany and regional neighbours. Top UK exports include: electrical apparatus/appliances and spares, medical and pharmaceutical products, manufactured metals, office and ADP machinery, general industrial machinery and power generating machinery.

Opportunities exist particularly in the development of infrastructure projects, including power, transport, water, construction, oil and gas and environmental technology. Opportunities also exist in education and training, financial services, healthcare, IT and electronics and consumer goods.

UK imports from the Philippines in 2006 amounted to £755.5m Top UK imports include: electrical and office equipment and machinery, apparel, miscellaneous manufactured material, road vehicles, fish products, textile fibres, yarn and made up articles.

Bilateral Investment

Over the last ten years the UK has been a significant investor in the Philippines. This is largely due to the pre-eminence of the country as a global financial centre, with around 40% of annual portfolio inflows originating there.

Britain has major investments in the Philippines concentrated in power, energy, water and financial services. There are currently about 200 British companies active in the Philippines, ranging from big multinationals to small one-man shows. Major British companies operating in country include Shell, HSBC, BG, Standard Chartered, Misys, and BAT. A number of British companies are involved in successful franchising operations, these include Debenhams, M & S, Top Shop, Burberry, Tower Records and Lush.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The Philippines was a founder member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 and has enjoyed generally good relations with her neighbours. Malaysia has been helpful to the Philippines in hosting and facilitating negotiations with the MILF.

There have been tensions with China over Philippine links with Taiwan. Chinese action in areas claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea has also caused tension, though there are hopes that this may be reduced now that ASEAN countries and China have signed a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Recently, the Philippines, China and Vietnam have reached an agreement on the joint exploration of the area. Philippine relations with the USA have improved since the difficulties over the closure of the US bases in 1991 and the relationship remains one of major importance for the Philippines. Under President Arroyo, relations have improved further. She has given her full support to the campaign against terror and was supportive of the military action in Iraq. The Philippines has sent around 100 army, police and medical personnel to Iraq as part of a humanitarian assistance team, but they have now been withdrawn following the kidnap of a Filipino national.

On a State visit to the US in May 2003, President Arroyo was offered further US financial support for counter terrorism. The US also made a commitment, since fulfilled, to designate the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally. President Bush visited the Philippines on 18 October 2003. Annual military training exercises are conducted between the two armed forces, and the US also provides training support in Mindanao.

A US Marine was sentenced to over 20 years of imprisonment in 2006 for the rape of a Filipina in the Subic Bay area. He has been transferred back to the custody of the US Embassy from a local jail, pending his appeal. The case has received substantial publicity and has prompted calls for a change to the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Philippine Relations with the UK

The UK enjoys an excellent bilateral relationship with the Philippines and is an important political and economic partner. President Arroyo met with Her Majesty the Queen when she visited the UK in December 2007. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair met President Arroyo when she visited the UK in January 2002, and again at a session of the UNGA in 2005. The earlier meeting has led to increased UK-Philippine co-operation on counter-terrorism.

In 2006 there were visits by the Lord Mayor of the City of London and HRH The Duke of York, the UK’s Special Representative for Trade and Investment to the Philippines, as well as a number of CEOs from major UK companies. President Arroyo visited London briefly for an unofficial visit in 2006, where she met many of the UK’s major investors in the Philippines.

The Philippines has been one of the UK's major recruitment countries for nurses and over 80,000 Filipino nurses and care-givers work in the UK. The total Philippine community in the UK is estimated to be about 150,000. There are estimated to be some 15,000 British nationals living in the Philippines. About 65,000 British nationals visit the Philippines annually.

Diplomatic Representation

Philippine Embassy in London

UK Overseas mission in Philippines

The first British Consul arrived in the Philippines in 1844. Consular/Diplomatic relations have continued since then, with a brief closure from 1942-1945 as a result of the Second World War. The Foreign Office regarded the mission in Manila as a diplomatic post from July 1946, and in 1955 the post was further upgraded to an Embassy. We currently have an Embassy in Manila and Honorary Consulates in Cebu, Olongapo and Angeles. The current Ambassador, Peter Beckingham, took up his post in January 2005.

UK Bilateral Co-operation

The UK and the Philippines enjoy a close and substantive bilateral relationship in several key areas of common concern. These include counter terrorism, human rights, economic reform, good governance, development, conflict prevention and peace building.

The British Government continues to attach a high priority to its co-operation with the Philippines on combating terrorism. Through the Global Opportunities Fund for Counter Terrorism the British Embassy has run a Police Capacity Building Project. We also continue to work closely with key Government agencies in a programme of Crisis Management training and support.

Through the Global Opportunities Fund for Engaging with the Islamic World Programme we are also supporting two projects in the Philippines. The first is capacity building for Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams (LPRAT) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). This aims to contribute to addressing minimum basic needs of the municipalities in four provinces in ARMM by strengthening local governance. The second is working with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and aims to build the capacity of local groups and organisations in sustaining understanding and collaborative peace initiatives among and within Muslim and Christian communities in two provinces of Mindanao.

Recognising the importance of strengthening economic governance to ensure sustainable economic growth and stability in the Philippines, the Global Opportunities Fund for Economic Governance supports projects covering anti-corruption, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, local governance, fiscal reform, and competition and regulation. The project partners have included the Institute of Corporate Directors, Development Academy of the Philippines, University of Asia and the Pacific, National Food Authority, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Department of Finance, Energy Regulatory Commission, The Asia Foundation, and Office of the Ombudsman.

The British Embassy runs a small bilateral programme budget that funds projects in support of Embassy objectives. Projects have traditionally been focussed on livelihood development, health, non-formal education for children and adults, women and child welfare, and community managed environmental projects. However the fund is increasingly supporting work in other areas, including human rights and good governance, as well as supporting Embassy work in areas such as trade and investment.

Educational and Cultural Relations with the UK

Each year the British Embassy, in co-operation with the British Council, sponsors a small number of full postgraduate scholarships to British universities for Filipinos under the Chevening Scholarship Scheme. These scholarships target promising young Filipinos with the potential to be future leaders. The Scheme aims to forge closer links between the UK and the Philippines while developing the potential of talented Filipinos.

The British Council has an office in Manila and is an active partner in the Philippine government's reform agenda. Each year the Council works in close collaboration with the British Embassy on the selection of FCO-funded Filipino Chevening Scholars and Fellows to study in the UK. The Council also works with the Commission on Higher Education, the Asian Development Bank, various government departments, universities and NGOs on projects in the areas of education, English language teaching, and governance. By promoting British education and UK qualifications, they aim to help make Filipinos more competitive in the global market. The Council also utilises the arts to tap the potential of young Filipinos, facilitating inter-cultural exchange and demonstrating the quality and cutting edge nature of British design, film, literature, music, theatre, dance and the visual arts.

In Mindanao in the southern Philippines, the British Council is active in the field of inter-faith dialogue, with the aim of promoting Christian-Muslim reconciliation as part of the wider solution to the unrest in the region.

HUMAN RIGHTS

The Philippines has a functioning democratic system with direct elections for both legislative chambers and for the post of President. However a weak party system means most politicians rely on personal popularity backed up by financial resources, to win election campaigns. There is a flourishing civil society and a lively independent media, although investigative journalists are frequently subjected to intimidation and violence. Around 75 journalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 1986, leading Journalists without Frontiers to claim in their 2006 Annual Report that the Philippines was the most dangerous place in the world for journalists outside Iraq.

The Philippines has acceded to all the core UN Human Rights Treaties, and many of these rights are incorporated into domestic law. Unfortunately implementation is often poor, in some cases due to lack of will and in others because of weak administrative capacity and lack of resources. This is reflected in the country's failure to meet its reporting requirements under the various UN Conventions. The Philippines is a signatory to the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court. However, the President has yet to send the Treaty to the Senate for ratification.

In June 2006 the Philippines abolished the death penalty following a sustained campaign over many years by national and international NGOs, as well as active lobbying from the European Union. However there remain serious concerns about the judicial system, including delays due to insufficient numbers of justices, corruption, and poor detention conditions, including for minors. There are also allegations of torture, both by the armed forces and by the police. Mechanisms for investigating complaints of torture are limited.

There is increasing domestic and international concern about the rising number of unexplained killings and disappearances in the Philippines, with allegations by NGOs and left wing groups that these are the result of a deliberate policy by the government to target individuals and groups perceived as sympathetic to the communist insurgents. A commission of inquiry appointed by the President produced a report in February 2007 confirming evidence of involvement by military personnel in some killings, and the Philippine government has taken a number of measures in response to recommendations made in the report, although it continues to assert that any military involvement represents rogue elements and that the majority of killings are carried out by other actors. Reflecting these concerns, Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions visited the Philippines in February 2007. An EU Needs Assessment Mission in June 2007 considered ways in which the EU could support government efforts to tackle this problem.

Other human rights concerns include the recruitment of child soldiers by insurgent groups. Violence against women is also a serious concern, as is sexual abuse of children, including by travelling sex offenders. Many women and children from rural areas who are recruited as domestic workers find themselves in conditions of forced labour, suffering physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.

The UK government has supported human rights improvements in the Philippines in a variety of ways. It has provided training for medical and jail workers, as well as the judiciary and lawyers, to recognise, document and report cases of torture. It has also given training to government agencies and human rights NGOs on UN human rights mechanisms, and been involved in work to strengthen the advocacy role of the Commission on Human Rights.

The British Embassy in Manila has been involved in several projects to help rehabilitate children who have been victims of sexual abuse, to enhance the capacity of child rights workers, and to develop prevention mechanisms on child abuse and paedophilia in target communities. A training programme for Philippine police officers, funded by the UK government, focused on the handling of sensitive cases involving women and child victims. The British Embassy has also supported a project providing assistance for young offenders in detention. In 2006 both DFID and the National Lottery provided support to an NGO working with Child Domestic Workers.

TRAVEL

Travel Advice: Philippines

Last reviewed: 7 January 2008