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 
(1997)--66 yrs.
Work force (1997): 30 million. Agriculture--47%. Government and 
services--37%. Industry and commerce--16%.


Type: Republic.
Independence: 1946.
Constitution: February 11, 1987.
Branches: Executive--president and vice president. Legislative--
bicameral legislature. Judiciary--independent.
Administrative subdivisions: 13 regions and Manila, 78 provinces, 61 
chartered cities.
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 
$17.8 billion.

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 
President Estrada.

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).


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).


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: 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 ( and on CD-ROM. Call the 
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.


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