The Philippines, officially called the Republic of the Philippines, is an island nation located western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. The country is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands and is near the countries of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Philippines has a population of just over 99 million people and it is the 12th largest country in the world.
History of the Philippines dates back to around 25,000 BC in which aboriginal inhabitants were followed by waves of Indonesian and Malayan settlers from 3000 BC onward.
The Philippines experienced Spanish influence from explorers such as Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, and a Spanish exploration party on behalf of Prince Philip, who was later to become Philip II of Spain twenty-one years later. These explorers named the group of islands in honor of Philip, and Spain retained possession of the islands for the next 350 years.
The Treaty of Paris ceded the Philippines to the U.S. in 1899 after the Spanish-American War. Decades later, under a constitution approved by the people of the Philippines in 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines came into being with Manuel Quezon y Molina as president.
On Dec. 8, 1941, the islands were invaded by Japanese troops. U.S. forces under MacArthur reinvaded the Philippines in Oct. 1944 and, after the liberation of Manila in Feb. 1945, Vice President Osmeña reestablished the government, succeeding Quezon.
The Philippines achieved full independence on July 4, 1946. Manuel A. Roxas y Acuña was elected its first president, succeeded by Elpidio Quirino (1948–1953), Ramón Magsaysay (1953–1957), Carlos P. García (1957–1961), Diosdado Macapagal (1961–1965), and Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965–1986).
Under Marcos, civil unrest broke out in opposition to the leader’s despotic rule. Martial law was declared on Sept. 21, 1972, and Marcos proclaimed a new constitution that ensured his role as president. Martial law was officially lifted on Jan. 17, 1981, but Marcos and his wife, Imelda, retained broad powers.
Following Marcos, the Aquino administration also had to weather considerable internal dissension, repeated coup attempts, and such natural disasters as a major earthquake and the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
In elections in May 1992, Gen. Fidel Ramos, who had the support of the outgoing President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), won the presidency in a seven-way race. In Sept. 1992, the U.S. Navy turned over the Subic Bay naval base to the Philippines, marking the end of U.S. military presence. Meanwhile, the separatist Moro National Liberation Front was fighting a protracted war for an Islamic homeland on Mindanao, the southernmost of the two main islands.
Frequent and violent clashes with these and other terrorist groups have continued, however. Abu Sayyaf, a small group of guerrillas that has been fighting since the 1970s for an independent Islamic state and reportedly has links to Osama bin Laden, gained international notoriety throughout 2000 and 2001 with its spree of kidnappings and murders. About 120,000 people have died in the conflicts with rebel groups, and more than 3 million have been displaced.
The government declared a state of emergency in November 2009 in the southern province of Maguindanao on the island of Mindanao following the massacre of a group of 57 people who about to fill out election nomination forms for a local leader who was challenging rival Andal Ampatuan, Jr., in the race for provincial governor.
Sitting astride the typhoon belt, the Philippines are usually affected by 15 and struck by 5 to 6 cyclonic storms per year. The end of 2011 brought Typhoon Washi, which raged for three days with winds gusting up to 90 kmh (56 mph). The deadly storm killed more than 1,200 and left an estimated 60,000 homeless.
In May 2012, China held up Philippine bananas at customs for prolonged inspections. The same week in May, China began a media campaign suggesting any claim on Huangyan Island was an infringement of Chinese sovereignty. Called Panatag Shoal by the Philippines, the island has been the source of a longstanding dispute between the two countries.
Despite this growth, however, poverty worsened during her presidency. The AQUINO administration is working to reduce the government deficit from 3.9% of GDP, when it took office, to 2% of GDP by 2013. The government has had little difficulty issuing debt, both locally and internationally, to finance the deficits. The AQUINO Administration reduced public debt to below 50% of GDP and obtained several ratings upgrades on sovereign debt so that the Philippines is now close to investment grade. However, the lack of government spending, especially on infrastructure, was one of several factors which slowed GDP growth in the second half of 2011, leading the government to announce a stimulus effort and increased public spending on infrastructure in 2012.
AQUINO’s first budget emphasized education, health, conditional cash transfers for the poor, and other social spending programs, relying mostly on the private sector to finance important infrastructure projects. Weak tax collection, exacerbated by new tax breaks and incentives, has limited the government’s ability to address major challenges. The AQUINO administration has vowed to focus on improving tax collection efficiency, rather than imposing new taxes, as a part of its good governance platform. The economy still faces several long-term challenges, including reliance on energy imports and foreign demand for overseas Filipino workers.