Geography of the Philippines

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Geography of the Philippines
the Philippines
Continent Asia
Region Southeast Asia
Coordinates 13°00'N 122°00'E
Area Ranked 72nd
300,000 km²
115,830.65 miles²
99.39% land
0.61% water
Coastline 36,289 km (22,548.94 miles)
Borders None
Highest point Mount Apo
2,954 m (9,691 ft)
Lowest point Philippine Sea
0 m/0 ft (sea level)
Longest river Cagayan River
Largest lake Laguna de Bay

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 about 105,000 km². The next largest island is Mindanao at about 94,600 km². The archipelago is around 800 km from the Asian mainland and is located between Taiwan and Borneo.

The islands are divided into three groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon itself, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Batanes Islands. The Visayas is the group of islands in the central Philippines, the largest of which are: Palawan, 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.


Physical setting

Physical map of the Philippines

The Philippine archipelago lies in Southeast Asia in a position that has led to its becoming a cultural crossroads, a place where Malays, Arabs, Chinese, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese and others have interacted to forge a unique cultural and racial blend. The archipelago numbers some 7,100 islands and the nation claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles from its shores. The Philippines occupies an area that stretches for 1,850 kilometers from about the fifth to the twentieth parallels north latitude. The total land area is almost 300,000 square kilometers. Only approximately 1,000 of its islands are populated, and fewer than one-half of these are larger than 2.5 square kilometers. Eleven islands make up 94 percent of the Philippine landmass, and two of these — Luzon and Mindanao — measure 105,000 and 95,000 square kilometers, respectively. They, together with the cluster of the Visayan Islands that separate them, represent the three principal regions of the archipelago that are identified by the three stars on the Philippine flag. Topographically, the Philippines is broken up by the sea, which gives it one of the longest coastlines of any nation in the world. Most Filipinos live on or near the coast, where they can easily supplement their diet from approximately 2,000 species of fish.

Off the coast of eastern Mindanao is the Philippine Trough, which descends to a depth of 10,430 meters. The Philippines is part of a western Pacific arc system that is characterized by active volcanoes. Among the most notable peaks are Mount Mayon near Legazpi City, Taal Volcano south of Manila, and Mount Apo on Mindanao. All of the Philippine islands are prone to earthquakes. The northern Luzon highlands, or Cordillera Central, rise to between 2,500 and 2,750 meters, and, together with the Sierra Madre in the northeastern portion of Luzon and the mountains of Mindanao, boast rain forests that provide refuge for numerous upland tribal groups. The rain forests also offer prime habitat for more than 500 species of birds, including the Philippine eagle (or monkey-eating eagle), some 800 species of orchids, and some 8,500 species of flowering plants.

The country's most extensive river systems are the Pulangi River, which flows into the Mindanao River (Rio Grande de Mindanao); the Agusan, in Mindanao which flows north into the Mindanao Sea; the Cagayan in northern Luzon; and the Pampanga, which flows south from east Central Luzon into Manila Bay. Laguna de Bay, east of Manila Bay, is the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines. Several rivers have been harnessed for hydroelectric power.

To protect the country's biological resources, the government has taken a first step of preparing a Biodiversity Action Plan to address conservation of threatened species.

Political geography

Provinces and regions of the Philippines

The Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units (LGUs) with the 80 provinces as the primary unit. Provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn composed of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit.

The Philippines is divided into 17 regions with all provinces grouped into one of 16 regions for administrative convenience. The National Capital Region however, is divided into four special districts.

Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.



List of Landlocked provinces in the Philippines

A landlocked province is one that has no coastline, meaning no access to sea or ocean. There are 16 landlocked provinces in the Philippines:

Similarly, Laguna and Rizal Province of CALABARZON (Region IV-A) have coastlines on Laguna de Bay. Since lakes do not allow access to seaborne trade, these provinces are still considered to be landlocked.

List of island provinces in the Philippines

An island province completely surrounded by water, is the opposite of a landlocked one. There are 15 island provinces in the Philippines:

Dinagat Islands of Caraga Region shares a border with Surigao City, the capital of Surigao del Norte.

Subnational enclaves and exclaves

In political geography, an enclave is a territory or part of a territory (usually a country) lying wholly within the boundaries of another, and an exclave is one which is politically attached to a larger piece but not actually contiguous with it. Many entities are both enclaves and exclaves, but the two are not synonymous.

List of subnational exclaves in the Philippines

Is Datu Saudi-Ampatuan divided by Datu Piang and/or Mamasapano, Maguindanao?

Inaccessible districts

  • Some coastal barangays in Canaman, Camarines Sur do not have direct connection to barangays in poblacion. People from some coastal barangays in Canaman have to pass Camaligan and Naga City via Bicol River before reaching poblacion.

Subnational quadripoint

A quadripoint is a point on the Earth that touches four distinct regions. Such points are often called "four corners", from the corners of the four regions meeting there.

More than four

Four divisions converging at a point is ordinary in the Philippines. One can find even more than four.



Plaza Rizal in Naga City is claimed by the province of Camarines Sur, its home province. The Plaza belonged to the city (formerly Nueva Caceres) when it was the capital of Ambos Camarines. A new capitol was contructed in Pili when Camarines Sur was created.


The Philippines has a tropical marine climate dominated by a rainy season and a dry season. The summer monsoon brings heavy rains to most of the archipelago from May to October, whereas the winter monsoon brings cooler and drier air from December to February. Manila and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May. Even at this time, however, temperatures rarely rise above 37 °C. Mean annual sea-level temperatures rarely fall below 27 °C. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters in the mountainous east coast section of the country, but less than 1,000 millimeters in some of the sheltered valleys.

Monsoon rains, although hard and drenching, are not normally associated with high winds and waves. But the Philippines sit astride the typhoon belt, and it suffers an annual onslaught of dangerous storms from July through October. These are especially hazardous for northern and eastern Luzon and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions, but Manila gets devastated periodically as well.

In the last decade, the Philippines has been hit severely by natural disasters. In 2005 alone, Central Luzon was hit by both a drought, which sharply curtailed hydroelectric power, and by a typhoon that flooded practically all of low-lying Manila's streets. Still more damaging was the 1990 earthquake that devastated a wide area in Luzon, including Baguio and other northern areas. The city of Cebu and nearby areas were struck by a typhoon that killed more than a hundred people, sank vessels, destroyed part of the sugar crop, and cut off water and electricity for several days. The Philippines are struck by about 10 typhoons per year. Of course the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption also damaged much of Central Luzon, the lahar burying towns and farmland, and the ashes affecting global temperatures.

Building construction is undertaken with natural disasters in mind. Most rural housing has consisted of nipa huts that are easily damaged but are inexpensive and easy to replace. Most urban buildings are steel and concrete structures designed (not always successfully) to resist both typhoons and earthquakes. Damage is still significant, however, and many people are displaced each year by typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. In 1987 alone the Department of Social Welfare and Development helped 2.4 million victims of natural disasters.


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Map showing major volcanoes of the Philippines

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 Mount Apo in Mindanao, which is 2,954 m above sea level. The second highest point can be found on Luzon at Mount 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 Mount Pinatubo on Luzon in 1991. Next, Mount Mayon is one of the active volcanoes which has the world's most perfectly-shaped cone. Mayon Volcano has a violent history of 47 eruptions since 1616. A violent eruption is currently feared. 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. The longest river is the Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan in northern Luzon measuring 354 kilometers. In Mindanao, the longest river is the Mindanao River or Rio Grande de Mindanao which drains Maguindanao and other parts in western-central Mindanao. Agusan River drains eastern Mindanao.

Most of the islands are 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.


File:Northern Philippines (Luzon).jpg
Northern Philippines (Luzon)

The Batanes And Babuyan Islands

The northernmost point of land, the islet of Y'Ami in the Batanes Islands, is separated from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel (c.50 mi/80 km wide).

Western Luzon

Cagayan Valley

Cordilleras and Caraballos

Sierra Madre Mountains

Sierra Madre Mountain is the longest mountain range in the Philippines that lies in the Northwestern part of Luzon Island. The range stretches from Quezon Province to Isabela. 80 percent of the mountain range is tropical rainforest. However, due to rampant illegal logging activities in the area, the natural tropic of the range is diminishing. Only 5 percent of the mountain range is unexplored. The Sierra Madre Mountain Range serves as a western wall of Luzon Island from tropical cyclones usually coming from the Pacific Ocean.

Central Luzon Plains

Manila-CALABARZON Plains

This region is where the capital of the Philippines is located. Large rivers from bays and mountain springs traverse the plain. In the Northern part of the region, that is, Manila and Rizal, most of the plain has been converted into cities, and are thus industrialized. The plain harbors the largest inland freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the Laguna de Bay.

Mindoro island

Mindoro Coastal Plains
Mindoro Highlands

Bicol Peninsula

This peninsula is connected to mainland Luzon by the isthmus of Tayabas. Provinces occupying Bicol Peninsula are the provinces Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and some municipalities of Quezon Province.



Kalayaan islands(Spratly Islands)

Located to the west of Palawan. "Kalayaan" is a Filipino word meaning "freedom". see Spratly islands

Panay-Negros-Cebu Area

Leyte-Samar Area


Zamboanga Peninsula

Misamis Coastal Plains

Inland Mindanao

Agusan-Surigao-Davao Coastal Plains

Compostela Valley

Sarangani-Cotabato Coastal Plains

Cotabato Valley

Sulu Archipelago

Other information

total: 300,000 km²
land: 298,170 km²
water: 1,830 km²

Coastline: 36,289 km

Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles (370 km)
territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nautical miles (185 km) from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nautical miles (528 km) 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 km² (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:

Ten largest cities
The following is a list of the ten largest cities in the country in terms of population, with their population according to the 2000 census. Component cities and municipalities of Metro Manila and Metro Cebu are taken as one to show the extent of urbanization.

Rank City  Population in 2000 
1. Metro Manila 9,932,560
2. Metro Cebu 1,195,568
3. Davao City 1,147,116
4. Zamboanga City 601,794
5. Antipolo City 470,866
6. Cagayan de Oro City 461,877
7. Bacolod City 429,076
8. General Santos City 411,822
9. Iloilo City 365,820
10. Iligan City 285,061


See also

pt:Geografia das Filipinas

External links

Original Source

Original content fromWikipedia under GNU Free Documentation License. See full disclaimer.