The Republic of Philippines (Republika ñg Pilipinas) gave itself a new Constitution on January 17, 1973, which establishes the division of powers between the President of the State, the Prime Minister and the Legislative Assembly, but which in fact did not come into force. The republic is divided administratively into 73 provinces; it is part of the UN, the Seato and the Colombo Plan.
The archipelago of Philippines, which has about 7100 islands, is notoriously frequently hit by typhoons, earthquakes and floods, and sometimes by the eruption of some of its numerous volcanoes. These events have caused several thousand victims in the last fifteen years: we will mention, for example, the typhoons that hit the islands of Luzon and Mindanao in 1970 (about 1100 deaths), and that of November 1964 on the southern islands; the earthquake of August 1976 with over 6000 deaths; the eruption of the Taal volcano (60 km S of Manila) in 1965. Victims and serious damage caused the July 1972 flood in the central plain of Luzon.
The population has increased strongly in the last twenty years, passing from 27,088,000 residents in 1960 to 36,684,000 in 1970 and to 42,517,000 in July 1975, with an overall 1960-75 increase of 45%; the average density (measuring the area of the state 300,000 km 2) rose to 142 residents per km 2. The increase is due to the high birth rate (more than 40% ?; unfortunately the values of the birth and death rates reported by various sources are very uncertain, while an annual increase of about 3% is certain for the last few years). The greatest numerical progress has marked the urban population (but the data usually offered refer to “municipalities”, not to cities in the proper sense, and sometimes the difference is considerable). The capital, Quezon City, in topographical continuity with Manila, has increased from 398,000 residents in 1960 to 995,000 in 1975, Manila from 1,139,000 to 1,438,000, Davao from 225,000 to 516,000, Cebu from 251,000 to 419,000, Iloilo from 151,000 to 233,000 residents, etc.
Of the more than 70 languages spoken in the Philippines, Tagalog, spoken in the central part of Luzon, including Manila, was chosen in 1946 as the official language, to make it the national language of the whole country, called pilipino.. Both by spontaneous diffusion and by teaching in schools, already in 1960 44% of the population could speak Tagalog, which in any case serves as a lingua franca throughout the state, together with English, known by two fifths of the residents (Spanish on the other hand has been reduced to an absolute minority also as a lingua franca, known to just 2% of the population). Primary education is widespread, so much so that for 1970 official data limited illiteracy to 16.6% of people over 10 years of age (40% in 1948). At higher levels, teaching is given in Tagalog or English.
Roman Catholicism remains the religion of the majority of Filipinos, with 31,170,000 followers in 1970 (out of 36,684,000 residents), That is 85%, despite the presence of two local Catholic Churches, the Aglipayans (1,435,000) and the adherents of the “Iglesia ni Kristo” (475,000), and about 3% of Protestants (1,125,000). But after the Roman Catholics, the strongest religious community is still the Muslim one (1,585,000 in 1970, that is 4.3%) concentrated above all in the Is. Sulu and in part of Mindanao, it is now calling for the establishment of an autonomous region..
The Philippine economy continues to be based on agriculture, although the agricultural population has decreased proportionally (48.5% of economically active people). The products, which are very varied, remain basically the same and the production of the most important ones has increased, but not so much as to cope with the demographic increase as regards the most common foods; the national production of rice, like the rest of fish, fundamental foods of popular nutrition, must be integrated with imports.
The cultivated lands take up 37.2% of the total area (8,650,000 hectares of arable or tuberous crops, 2,490,000 hectares of woody or similar) and the forests 46.3%; the area of the latter, however, is decreasing, following intense exploitation. The production of rice, less than 40 million q per year towards 1960, rose to almost 56 million in 1974, that of maize almost doubled (about 23 million q). These quantities are achieved with the size of the cultivated area, while the yields remain very low; technical progress is slow. The other main food productions are: bananas, with 11.5 million q per year, almost totally destined for internal consumption, because of low quality; sweet potatoes 6.5 million q, cassava 4,800,000 q, pineapples 4 million; follow yam, peanuts, tomatoes, beans, citrus fruits, etc. The cultivation of sugar cane is fundamental for exports, with a sugar yield of 24,500,000 q in 1974, and the production of coffee, over half a million q per year, is not indifferent.
Among the non-food products, those supplied by the coconut palm, widespread in all coastal areas, are at the forefront, allowing a conspicuous export: copra (15 million q in 1974), nuts, oil. The tobacco harvest, generally of excellent quality, has increased somewhat (785,000 q in 1974) and Manila hemp, produced by the acabà, now seems to be recovering (870,000 q in 1974); the production of other vegetable fibers and rubber is scarce.
In the breeding of large cattle, used for traction, buffaloes clearly prevail, with about 5 million heads in 1974, over cattle, 2,200,000. The food function is entrusted to the numerous pigs (9,300,000 heads), goats (1,300,000) and poultry. Fishing is favored by the abundance of fish in the adjacent seas, but offshore fishing is not practiced; on the other hand, the catches in lakes, ponds and artificial pools, which are very numerous, make a certain contribution (10-15%). In 1974, global production rose to 13 million q, however insufficient for consumption, as has been said.
An excellent resource of the Philippines are the forests, which give ordinary and precious wood (especially mahogany), produced above all by some species of Dipterocarpacee. The timber feeds numerous sawmills and today also the manufacture of plywood. The production, estimated at 4.5 million m 3 in 1956, rose to 10.5 million in 1973, two-thirds exported.
In spite of the great variety of metal ores, mining production appears on the whole very modest; only copper production stands out, due to the value of production (225,000 tons of metallic copper contained in the minerals extracted in 1974) and then chromium. This is followed by iron (1,600,000 tons of metal), gold (16,700 kg), silver (53,000 kg), etc.
The industry is developing slowly, but it lags far behind needs. Alongside the industries destined for the treatment of agricultural products (rice, sugar cane, coconuts, tobacco) and forestry (plywood, furniture), the spinning and weaving of cotton, the cement factory, the production of some chemical products and fertilizers. Energy needs are mostly covered with power plants served by petroleum products, since the exploitation of the huge water resources is still very partial (just about fifteen plants).
The communication routes are scarce, except if ever in Luzon and some smaller islands. While the old railway lines have long since remained unchanged (1030 km), the network of ordinary roads has rapidly lengthened, but for the most part is lacking in modern pavement. Vehicles quickly rose to 517,000 in 1973 (three fifths of cars, one for every 78 residents). Given the great dispersion of the territory, internal aviation is very active and has over a hundred airports; after Manila, which absorbs most of the international air traffic, the main airports are in Bacolod, Mactan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao. The Philippines have their own merchant fleet (in 1975: 413 ships of over 100 t, for a gross tonnage of 880,000).
Foreign trade has grown rapidly in recent years and the value of imports has surpassed that of exports: US $ 3055 million in 1976 versus US $ 2189 million. The main items of exports are timber and plywood, then sugar, copper concentrates, copra and coconut oil, followed at a distance by canned pineapples, Manila hemp, etc. Imports predominate oil and derivatives, machinery and electrical items, metals, vehicles, chemicals, cereals and flour, textile fibers. Trade takes place essentially with Japan and the United States (75% of exports and 55% of imports in 1973).