U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Philippines, November 1996
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
Area: 300,000 sq. km. (117,187 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Manila (pop. 10 million in metropolitan area). Other cities--
Davao (725,000), Cebu (550,000).
Terrain: Islands, 65% mountainous, with narrow coastal lowlands.
Climate: Tropical, astride typhoon belt.
Population (1994): 70 million.
Annual growth rate: 2.3%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese.
Religions: Catholic 83%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 5%, other 3%.
Languages: Pilipino (based on Tagalog), national language; English, language of
government and instruction in higher education.
Education: Years compulsory--six. Attendance above 97% in elementary grades,
55% in secondary grades.
Health: Infant mortality rate (1993)--42/1,000. Life expectancy (1993)--66 yrs.
Work force (1994): 27 million. Agriculture--47%. Government and services--37%.
Industry and commerce--16%.
Constitution: February 11, 1987.
Branches: Executive--president and vice president. Legislative--bicameral
legislature. Judiciary--independent .
Administrative subdivisions: 13 regions and Manila, 77 provinces, 61 chartered
Political parties: Lakas Ng Bayan (Lakas/NUCD), Philippine Democratic Party
(PDP/Laban), National Peoples Coalition (NPC), and other small parties.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 15.
GDP (1995): $70 billion.
Annual growth rate (1995): 5.6%.
Per capita income: $1,080.
Natural resources: Timber, copper, nickel, iron, cobalt, silver, gold.
Agriculture: Products sugar, coconut products, rice, corn, pineapples, bananas,
Industry: Types textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood
products, food processing, electronics assembly.
Trade (1995): Exports--$17.4 billion. Imports--$26.4 billion.
U.S.- Philippine relations are based on shared history and commitment to
democratic principles and on vibrant economic ties. The historical and cultural
links between the Philippines and the U.S. remain strong. The Philippines
modeled its governmental institutions on those of the U.S. and continues to
share a commitment to democracy and human rights. At the most fundamental level
of bilateral relations, human links continue to form a strong bridge between the two countries. There are an estimated 2 million Americans of Philippine ancestry in the United States and more than 100,000 American citizens in the Philippines.
Until November 1992, pursuant to the 1947 Military Bases Agreement, the United
States maintained and operated major facilities at Clark Air Base, Subic Bay
Naval complex, and several small subsidiary installations in the Philippines. In 1983 and 1988, the United States and the Philippines completed successful
reviews and extensions of the Military Bases Agreement, as amended. In August
1991, negotiators from the two countries reached agreement on a draft treaty
providing for use of Subic Bay Naval Base by U.S. forces for 10 years. The draft treaty did not include use of Clark Air Base, which had been so heavily damaged by the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo that the U.S. decided to abandon it.
On September 16, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the bases treaty, and
despite further efforts to salvage the situation, the two sides could not reach
agreement. As a result, the Philippine Government informed the U.S. on December
6, 1991, that it would have one year to complete withdrawal. That withdrawal
went smoothly and was completed ahead of schedule, with the last U.S. forces
departing on November 24, 1992. On departure, the U.S. Government turned over
assets worth more than $1.3 billion to the Philippines, including an airport and ship-repair facility. Agencies formed by the Philippine Government are now
converting the former military bases for civilian commercial use, with Subic Bay serving as a flagship for that effort.
The post-U.S. bases era have seen U.S.-Philippine relations improved and
broadened, focusing more prominently on economic and commercial ties while
maintaining the importance of their security dimension. Philippine domestic
political stability has resulted in increased U.S. investment in the country,
while a strong security relationship rests on the U.S.-Philippines Mutual
Defense Treaty and includes frequent bilateral military exercises and U.S. naval ship visits. Although U.S. aid to the Philippines has taken on a far less
prominent role than in the past, assistance programs continue, highlighted by
the July 1996 opening of a major airport and harbor project in General Santos
City with U.S. Agency for International Development funding. President Ramos
underscored the strength of the bilateral relationship by declaring July 4, 1996 to be Philippine-American Friendship Day in commemoration of the 50th
anniversary of Philippine independence.
Trade and Investment
U.S. relations with the Philippines now focus on mutual economic interests. This is part of a global phenomenon reflecting the end of the Cold War, rather than the result of closing bases. The United States traditionally has been the
Philippines' largest trading partner, taking about 38% of Philippine exports and providing about 18% of imports in 1994. Two-way trade with the United States in 1994 exceeded $9 billion.
Principal U.S. exports to the Philippines include materials for semiconductor,
electronic, and electrical machinery manufacture; electric and non-electric
machinery; transport equipment; and cereals and cereal preparations. Major
Philippine exports to the U.S. are textiles and garments, electric machinery,
semi-conductor devices, and coconut oil.
U.S. investment in the Philippines is extensive, conservatively estimated at
more than $2 billion, making the U.S. the largest foreign investor in the
country. Since the late 1980s, the Philippine Government has committed itself to reforms designed to encourage foreign investment as a basis for economic
development, subject to certain guidelines and restrictions in specific areas.
In 1987, President Aquino signed an Omnibus Investment Code that aligned
Philippine incentives with those of other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian
Nations) members. Since 1992, President Ramos has continued and expanded on the
process, opening the power generation and telecommunication sectors to large-
scale foreign investment, reforming banking laws, and securing ratification of
the Uruguay Round agreement and membership in the World Trade Organization.
Indeed, widespread consensus exists on the value of continued economic
liberalization and the importance of providing a good climate for foreign
investment. These areas will likely continue to enjoy broad support in the years ahead and can be expected to be expanded by Ramos' successor.
In the late 1980s, the United States led a major multilateral effort for a new
program the Multilateral Assistance Initiative aimed at helping the Philippine
economy. Since then, the U.S. has maintained, at diminished levels, a
development assistance program intended to promote a market-based economy and
strengthen democratic institutions, health care and family planning, and
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Thomas C. Hubbard
Consul General--Kevin Herbert
The U.S. embassy is located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila (tel. (63)(2)521-
7116; fax 522-4361; telex 722-27366 AME PH).
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The Philippines has a representative democracy modeled on the U.S. system. The
1987 constitution, adopted during the Aquino administration, established a
presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature and an
independent judiciary. The president is limited to one six-year term. Provision
also was made in the constitution for autonomous regions in Muslim areas of
Mindanao and in the Cordillera region of northern Luzon.
The 24-person Philippine Senate is elected at large, while 204 of a possible 250 members in the House of Representatives are elected by district, almost half from the metropolitan Manila area. The remainder of the House seats are
designated for sectoral representatives appointed by the president. President
Ramos has chosen so far to fill only a few of the sectoral seats.
Fidel Ramos took office June 30, 1992, in the first peaceful transition between
presidents since 1965. Limits on presidential power established by the 1987
constitution have required President Ramos to rely heavily on often-shifting
congressional support for his initiatives. Despite coalitions and party
identification, members of the Philippine congress tend to be independent,
changing party affiliation with ease.
After a year of consolidating his support in the congress, President Ramos
achieved working majorities in both houses in 1993. Senate opposition to some of the President's economic reform proposals led to a move in the House in 1993 to amend the constitution in favor of a unicameral legislature, but the effort
faltered and was shelved.
In 1994, President Ramos' Lakas Party forged coalitions with the Liberal Party
and the Laban Party, giving him a controlling majority in both houses. The
coalition was designed both to ease passage of certain legislation and to reduce competition between the two largest parties in the May 1995 congressional elections.
Early in his administration, President Ramos declared "national reconciliation"
the highest national priority. He legalized the communist party and created the
National Unification Commission (NUC) to lay the groundwork for talks with
communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and military rebels. In June 1994,
President Ramos signed into law a general conditional amnesty covering all rebel groups, as well as Philippine military and police personnel accused of crimes committed while fighting the insurgents. In October 1995, the government signed an agreement bringing the military insurgency to an end. Although the other peace talks have not fully resolved outstanding differences and many of the underlying social problems have yet to be addressed, the communist and Muslim insurgencies no longer pose a threat to the government. Since early 1995, Muslim extremist activity in Mindanao has, however, increased.
Congressional elections held on May 8, 1995, opened for challenge 204 House
seats and half (12) of the seats in the Senate. The coalition of parties led by
the Lakas party gained supermajorities in both houses. Lakas alone won a
comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. President Ramos will
likely try to use what is perceived as his new electoral mandate to resume his
pursuit of passage of a number of economic reform proposals. In addition, Ramos
has promised to address social needs such as health care for the poor, housing,
and agrarian reform.
With the elections over, proposals for conversion to a parliamentary system have resurfaced. While the proposals have some support, such change would require approval of two-thirds of the Senate, a prospect that seems no more likely now than in 1993. President Ramos has also publicly opposed the proposals, saying they distract from consideration of important reform legislation. Ramos' own successor in 1998 may well be drawn from the new Senate membership. Ramos himself was elected from a field of seven candidates and is expected by many observers to indicate a preference among the candidates who run to succeed him.
Principal Government Officials
President--Fidel V. Ramos
Vice President--Joseph Estrada
Foreign Secretary--Domingo Siazon, Jr.
Ambassador to the United States--Raul Chaves Rabe
Permanent Representative to the UN--Felipe Mabilangan
The Republic of the Philippines maintains an embassy in the United States at
1600 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-467-9300).
Consulates general are in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Honolulu, and Agana (Guam).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel
Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the
State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.
Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on
immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of
instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of
the U.S. posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at
(202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs
Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard
settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and
planning a safe trip abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559
gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs
regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may
be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in
the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB provides
Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful information for
travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to anyone with a personal
computer, modem, telecommunications software, and a telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN
provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information.
Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly
magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key
officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research
Collection, which also is accessible at gopher://gopher.state.gov or
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis by the
U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State
Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy
information from 1990 to the present. Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year
subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are
available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy information also
is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce,
the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, including Country
Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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