Background Notes: Philippines, July 1998
Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
Area: 300,000 sq. km. (117,187 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Manila (pop. 10.4 million in metropolitan area). Other
cities--Davao (1.3 million), Cebu (3.1 million).
Terrain: Islands, 65% mountainous, with narrow coastal lowlands.
Climate: Tropical, astride typhoon belt.
Nationality: Noun--Filipino(s). Adjective--Philippine.
Population (1997): 73 million.
Annual growth rate: 2.3%.
Ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese.
Religions: Catholic 83%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 5%, Buddhist and other
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 (1997)--35.2/1,000. Life expectancy
Work force (1997): 30 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, 78 provinces, 61
Political parties: Laban Ng Masang Pilipino (LAMP), Lakas Ng Bayan
(Lakas/NUCD), and other small parties.
Suffrage: Universal, but not compulsory, at age 18.
GDP (1997): $82 billion.
Annual growth rate (1997): 5.2%.
GDP per capita (1997): $1,145.
Natural resources: Timber, copper, nickel, iron, cobalt, silver, gold.
Agriculture: Sugar, coconut products, rice, corn, pineapples, bananas,
aquaculture, mangoes, pork, eggs.
Industry: Types textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood
products, food processing, electronics assembly, petroleum refining,
Trade (1997): Exports--$25.2 billion. Imports--$36.4 billion.
U.S.-Philippine relations are based on shared history and commitment to
democratic principles, as well as 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 two million Americans of Philippine ancestry in
the United States and more than 100,000 American citizens in the
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
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 have
converted the former military bases for civilian commercial use, with
Subic Bay serving as a flagship for that effort.
The post-U.S. bases era has seen U.S.-Philippine relations improved and
broadened, focusing more prominently on economic and commercial ties
while maintaining the importance of the 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. 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. Then-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. Ramos visited the United States
in April 1998.
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 41% of Philippine exports and providing about 20% of its
imports in 1997. Two-way trade with the United States in 1997 exceeded
Principal U.S. exports to the Philippines include materials for semi-
conductor, 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. During the term of then-President Ramos (1992-1998),
the Philippines 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
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 environmental sustainability.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Thomas C. Hubbard
Consul General--Caryl Courtney
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.
Joseph Estrada took office June 30, 1998, succeeding Fidel Ramos, under
whom he had served as Vice President. Despite coalitions and party
identification, members of the Philippine congress tend to be
independent, changing party affiliation with ease. Following his
election, President Estrada formed the LAMP party out of a tri-partite
alliance that had helped him get elected. Some members of former
President Ramos's Lakas Party defected to LAMP. President Estrada has
publicly declared that the battles against poverty and corruption will
be his highest priority.
Early in his administration, the previous president, Fidel 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. A peace agreement with one
major Muslim insurgent group was signed in 1996.
Principal Government Officials
President--Joseph E. Estrada
Vice President--Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
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 country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB).
To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-4400 (it will accommodate
up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1(no
parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login
is travel and the password is info. (Note: Lower case is required). The
CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas
Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic
Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which
contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip
abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954;
telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m.
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648).
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) 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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(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
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 magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings;
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual 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. Contact
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or
fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. 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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