Driving Directions Philippines

PHILIPPINES comprise a group of 7,107 islands and islets in the western Pacific, which are scattered over a vast area and form the northernmost group of the Malay Archipelago.

There are four main groups: Luzon and Mindoro to the north, the Visayan Islands in the cen­tre, Mindanao, and the Sulu Archipelago in the south and Palawan in the southwest.

Manila, the capital, is on Luzon. The great majority of the islands (6,647) are less than 2.6 square kilometers or 1 square mile in area and uninhabited, and only 11 are of a large enough size to accom­modate the bulk of the population. These are Luzon and Mindanao (the two largest islands), Mindoro, Samar, Masbate, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros, Panay, and Palawan.

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Most of the islands are mountainous, with more immense coastal or river valley plains occurring only in Luzon and Mindanao. The Philippines are part of a chain of volcanic mountains, and some 20 volcanoes are still active. The islands are also subject to reasonably frequent earthquakes. Typhoons, which occasionally strike the Philippines from July to October, are another natural hazard.

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Over a third of the islands are wooded, and forests contain, among others, palms, rubber trees, and banyan. There are many varieties of wildflowers and plants, such as orchids and the fibrous abaca or Manila hemp, from which Manila envelopes initially made.

Mammal species poorly represented in the Philippines, but there are a good number of birds and reptiles and abundant marine life, especially shellfish. Pearls, harvested from oysters found around the Sulu Archipelago, are highly prized on the world market.

The islands have a tropical climate but are cooled by sea breezes on the windward coasts. The rainy season is from July to October, with a distinct dry season between January and April and moderate rainfall in May and June and November and December.

Rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, and maize are the main subsistence crops and coconuts, sugar cane, pineapples, and bananas are grown for export. Agriculture employs around 42 percent of the workforce. Fishing is of major importance, and there are sponge fisheries on some of the islands.

Mining is an important industry, and its main products include gold, silver, nickel, copper, and salt. Other prime sectors include textiles, food processing, chemicals, and electrical engineering.

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