Philippines Geography

Philippines Geography and Population

Philippines – geography

Philippines consists of more than 7100 islands, of which 860 are inhabited. Luzon and Mindanao are by far the largest, accounting for two-thirds of the total area. Many of the islands have a very irregular shape and the total coastline is 13,000 km. Many coasts have coral reefs, and the sea between them is typically less than 30 m deep. Off the Pacific coast lies the Philippine Tomb with the Galathead Depth (10,540 m), which is one of the world’s deepest deep – sea tombs.

Natural geography

Volcano Mayon in the Philippines 23.9.1984 during an eruption that lasted almost a month. Pyroclastic currents and glowing ash avalanches roll down the southeastern flank of the volcano. The eruption cloud of gray pumice ash reached a maximum of 15 km in the air, and volcanic ash fell at a distance of up to 50 km west of the volcano. During this eruption, Mayon produced a total of 10 million. m3 of ash and a corresponding amount of lava. There were no casualties in connection with this volcanic eruption, which is largely due to the fact that more than 74,000 people around the volcano were evacuated on the recommendation of volcanologists at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

The country can be divided into three regions: Luzon with surrounding islands (including Mindoro and Marinduque), Mindanao (with the Sulu Islands) and the Visayas, the many islands between these two regions. To the west lie Palawan and 1700 small islands, which stretch from Mindoro to Borneo; administratively they belong to Luzon, but culturally and historically to Mindanao.

The terrain is varied and mountainous with north-south mountain ranges, between 1200 m and 2400 m high. The highest are Mount Apo (2954 m) on Mindanao and Mount Pilog (2934 m) on Luzon. Among the 15 active volcanoes, Pinatubo (1759 m) became famous in 1991, when an eruption scattered colossal amounts of volcanic ash, claimed nearly 600 lives, limited the cultivation of the country’s most important agricultural area for a number of years and could be recorded globally as a slight drop in Earth’s average temperature. the following year. Mount Mayon (2462 m) in southern Luzon, famous for its regular cone shape, has had numerous major eruptions since 1615, most recently in 2009-10 and 2013.

Both Mindanao and Luzon are series of peninsulas, linked by plateaus and stripes of lowlands. At the foot of the mountains the landscape is often hilly; larger river plains are found only on the two largest islands. The Cagayan valley between the two mountain ranges Sierra Madre and Cordillera Central is located on Luzon with Luzon’s Central Plain SW in front of it. On Mindanao lies the Cotabato Valley with large areas of swamp forest as well as the Davao and Agus sandals. The largest lake, Laguna de Bay, was part of the Gulf of Manila until it was constricted by a lava flow.


The climate is tropical and characterized by the surrounding gardens. Despite the large extent of the country, there are no major differences in temperature from north to south; the average temperature fluctuates around 25-26 °C all year round, decreasing in the mountains. The precipitation distribution shows greater differences, due to the SW monsoon in summer and the NE monsoon in winter. To the west there is dry season from January to May, and rainy season from late June to November. To the east, there is year-round rain with a maximum from November to March. Manila gets gnsntl. 2100 mm per year, NE-Mindanao 3600 mm, while Zamboangaon V-Mindanao and several mountain-surrounded valleys only get 1100 mm. However, there are large variations from year to year, and in rainy years, both the harvest yield and the electricity production from hydropower are reduced. Especially the east side of Luzon and Visayas lies in a typhoon belt, and in the Philippines is recorded in avg. 21 typhoons a year, regularly with devastating force.


The natural vegetation is rainforest and savannah. A large part of the lowland forests have been felled, but a third of the country is still forested; the rainforest is found in northeastern Luzon, on Samar and Negros, but especially on Palawan and Mindanao. Coniferous forest is found in the northern mountains. Wildlife includes a number of endemic species, including ghost monkeys (Tarsius philipensis). The national bird monkey eagle (Philippine eagle) is, like several other animal and plant species, highly endangered.


The population density is variable, but generally very high, 308 residents per. km2. Population growth is declining, but still quite high; in 2006, the population grew by 1.8%. There is a tradition of large families, and the strong position of the Catholic Church slows down family planning. Life expectancy is growing, and in 2006 is 67 and 73 years for respectively. men and women. Almost half of the population lives in cities and the proportion is growing. It is especially the urban area around the capital that attracts immigrants from rural areas. Metro Manila (eg. Metropolitan Manila) consists of four cities that have grown together: Manila, Quezon City, Pasay City and Caloocan City. Including the two neighboring regions has that area 1/3 of the country’s population. In addition to the large rural-town migration, there is also some net migration to peripheral areas of Palawan and Mindanao. It has changed the ethnic composition of these areas, which were previously dominated by Muslims and indigenous tribes. The migrants come mainly from densely populated parts of Luzon and the Visayas, where the pressure on the ground is great and the employment opportunities poor. Permanent and temporary migrations abroad take place on a large scale. The egl. emigrants are especially highly educated, physicians, engineers, and nurses who travel to the United States, Australia, and Canada, and the number is increasing. In addition, more than DKK 1 million work. Filipinos as guest workers in the Middle East, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. These are most often construction workers, domestic workers and seafarers, many unskilled and low paid.

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Agriculture continues to occupy 36% of the labor force, but the share is declining and employment is increasing in service and trade.


Agriculture, together with forestry and fisheries, contributes 14% of GDP (2006). The daily staple foods of the Philippines, rice and corn, are the dominant crops. The rice comes mainly from the Cagayan Valley and Luzon’s Central Plain; before Pinatubo in 1991, 1/3 of rice production from this plain. The cultivation is labor intensive and takes place especially on small farms. Increased use of fertilizers and irrigation in the Green Revolution has doubled hectare yields. With access to irrigation, both two and three crops can be grown per year.

The Philippines is the world’s largest producer of coconut products, and both cultivation, trade and processing are the basis for a large number of jobs. Under President Marcos, exports of coconut products were monopolized, and profits were, among other things, channeled for the development of Metro Manila.

Sugar is grown especially on large plantations around Bacolod on Negros. Sugar was formerly an important export crop, and Bacolod the most prosperous city after Manila. It changed abruptly in the 1980’s with a fall in world market prices. Also the production of pineapples and bananas takes place on large plantations, especially on Mindanao. The industry is dominated by transnational corporations such as Dole and Del Monte. Tobacco and abaca (manila hemp) are smaller but locally important export crops.

Livestock is dominated by pigs and chickens, while beef cattle breeding is less widespread and milk production is limited. The Philippine buffalo, carabao, is important as a draft animal.

The land is very unevenly distributed in Philippine agriculture; the largest 0.2% of the farms own 24% of the land, while 70% of the farmers do not own the land they cultivate, but have to pay high rental taxes. Land reform is urgently needed, but political will has so far been lacking. Meanwhile, the small farms are getting smaller and smaller. Foreigners are not allowed to own Philippine land, but transnational corporations have obtained ownership-like terms.

The fishery

Fishing is of great importance and contributes approximately 5% of GDP. In particular, shrimp from fish and aquaculture are a significant export to Japan, and fish is an important source of protein for large sections of the population. Half of the fish catch comes from small boats in coastal fishing; these fishermen are among the poorest groups of the population. Much of the high seas fishing is in foreign hands.

The forest area

The forest area decreased in the 1980’s by more than 3% per year and in 1990 was 78,000 km2. Illegal felling continues despite restrictive legislation, and illegal timber exports are estimated to be four times as large as official ones.

Raw materials

The Philippines has many mineral resources, but some are untapped and their extent little known. Copper production is most important, but gold, nickel, chromium, silver and iron are also extracted. The fluctuating prices in the world market for copper have meant difficult conditions for the mining industry, which now has only marginal significance in the country’s economy.


Supply is largely based on imports, especially of oil. Domestic oil production is small but rising sharply. It takes place offshore in the South China Sea off Palawan. Important local energy sources are hydropower, geothermal energy and biogas plants, which utilize the waste product bagasse from sugar production. Electricity production cannot keep up with consumption, and power outages and rationing are common. In the short term, the problem will be solved by allowing foreign companies to establish a number of thermal power plants.


Industry has overtaken agriculture as the most important sector, both in terms of production value and exports. Most importantly, the labor-intensive electronics and textile industries are characterized by foreign capital. A number of companies are located in free zones with particularly favorable terms for foreign investors. The former US Navy base Subic Bay NV for Manila is being rebuilt into one. The chemical industry is also important; it benefits from inadequate enforcement of environmental legislation. Most Filipino companies are small; an exception is the San Miguel brewery, which is the country’s largest company and has a large export. One third of industrial production takes place in and around Metro Manila. Including the neighboring areas of Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, it is more than half.


The sea route is important for transport in the vast archipelago. The port of Manila is the most important and accounts for the majority of imports, while the provincial ports handle a larger part of especially agricultural exports. Railways are of only minor importance; only a single stretch from Manila to Legaspi has passenger traffic, while small railways carry sugar cane in the sugar districts. Metro Manila has an elevated railway to relieve the city’s crowded roads, and several stretches are under construction. The road network is poorly developed, and even on a main stretch such as the route from Nordluzon to Davaoin the south the road is used mainly for local transport. The area around Metro Manila is best developed, but insufficient in relation to the sharply increasing traffic. Air traffic is handled by the now privatized Philippine Airlines with an expanded route network to all major cities. In addition, the public transport of buses, a dense network of ferry routes and the Filipino variant of the minibus, jeepney, are handled.

Philippines – Geology

The Philippines is located in a geologically very active area, where different small lithosphere plates since the Cretaceous have moved in a complicated pattern in relation to each other and formed subversion zones, volcanic island arches and zones where the plates extend and form large fissure valleys, so-called rifts. The island’s many volcanoes are associated with an eruption that takes place in the sea off the west and east coasts of the country, and the intense heat that thereby arises in the subsoil is utilized for geothermal energy. The quake is accompanied by frequent earthquakes and has resulted in the formation of the deep-sea tombs Manila Tomb and Philippine Tomb. Volcanic rocks, several with gold ore, others with large deposits of copper ore, and intrusions, formed by molten rocks, dominate the country. In addition, folded sediments and kilometer-thick sediment layers are found in the rift zones. In these zones, during the Tertiary period, when the area was part of the Eurasian Plate, thick river and swamp deposits were deposited. From here are known oil deposits that are found both on land and in the sea. Oil production takes place in the South China Sea.

Philippines – Peoples

The vast majority of the Philippines’s population (approximately 90%) is made up of various Malaysian peoples, including people of mixed Filipino-Spanish and Filipino-Chinese descent. This population group is strongly influenced by Spanish culture as a result of the influence of the Catholic Church from the 1500’s. and onwards as well as of recent currents from American culture. For culture and traditions of Philippines, please check animalerts.

Non-Christian peoples, who to a greater or lesser extent have preserved their original culture, including ifugao, are found especially in the mountainous regions of northern Luzon, where they grow rice in terraced fields. In the past, several of these peoples were collectively referred to as igorots. The largest non-Christian group (about 5%) in the Philippines is made up of the Muslim peoples of the Mindanao and Sulu islands and is often collectively referred to as fun. The moros first came in the mid-1800’s. really under Spanish supremacy. Many of them, however, still feel in contrast to the rest of the Filipino population, which in 1990 led to the creation of an autonomous region on Mindanao called Muslim Mindanao.

The indigenous people of the Philippines, the Negritos, live in small groups mainly in Luzon and Mindanao; some of them still make a living by gathering and hunting.

Philippines Geography