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Geography of the Philippines

Map of the physical geography of the Philippines. See the full-size version

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 km². The 11 largest islands contain 94% of the total land area. The largest of these islands is Luzon at ~105,000 km². The next largest island is Mindanao at ~94,600 km². The archipelago is around 800 km from the Asian mainland and is located between between Taiwan and Borneo.

The islands are divided into three groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon itself, Mindoro, Palawan, and Masbate. The Visayas is a group of several small islands, the largest of which are: Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar. The Mindanao islands include Mindanao itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago, composed primarily of Basilan[?], Sulu[?], and Tawi-Tawi[?].


The local climate is hot, humid, and tropical. The average yearly temperature is around 26.5° Celsius. Filipinos generally recognize three seasons: Tag-init or Tag-araw (hot season / summer; March to May), Tag-ulan (rainy season; June to November), and Tag-lamig (cold season; December to February). Most of Mindanao, part of the Visayas, and southern Luzon have no pronouched dry or rainy seasons.

From June to September, the monsoon blows from the southwest (habagat[?]). From October through April, the monsoon blows from the northeast (amihan[?]).

The country is also astride the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific. The Philippines are struck by about 10 typhoons per year.


The islands are volcanic in origin, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and are mostly mountainous. The highest point in the country is the peak of Mt. Apo in Mindanao, which is 2,954 m above sea level. The second highest point can be found on Luzon at Mt. Pulog, with the peak 2,842 m above sea level.

Many volcanoes in the country are active, the most recent violent eruption being that of Mt. Pinatubo[?] on Luzon in 1991. Taal Volcano[?], also located on Luzon, is one of the decade volcanoes[?].

The islands typically have narrow coastal plains and numerous swift-running streams. Every island has sand beaches, but few open onto spacious lowlands. There are few large plains or navigable rivers.

Most of the islands used to be covered in tropical rainforests, however, due to illegal logging, the forest cover has been reduced to less than 10% of the total land area.

Other Information

total: 300,000 sq km
land: 298,170 sq km
water: 1,830 sq km

Coastline: 36,289 km

Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nm from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nm in breadth

Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper

Land use:
arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 12%
permanent pastures: 4%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 19% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 15,800 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: astride typhoon belt, usually affected by 15 and struck by five to six cyclonic storms per year; landslides; active volcanoes; destructive earthquakes; tsunamis

Environment - current issues: uncontrolled deforestation in watershed areas; soil erosion; air and water pollution in Manila; increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps which are important fish breeding grounds

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification

Distances from Manila:

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