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Geography, climate and population


The Philippines is an island nation located in Southeast Asia. It is composes of 7 107 islands called the Philippine Archipelago, with an area of approximately 300 000 km2 (Table 1). The archipelago is bounded by the Bashi Channel in the north, the Philippine Sea (Pacific Ocean) in the east, the Sulu and Celebes Seas in the south and the South China Sea in the west. Its northernmost islands are approximately 240 km south of the island of Taiwan, and the southernmost islands lie 24 km off the coast of Borneo (Malaysia). The islands are commonly divided into three island groups, which are further divided into regions, provinces, cities and municipalities and barangays. The islands and their respective administrative regions are:

  • Luzon, 142 000 km2, composed of eight administrative regions: Ilocos (Region I), Cagayan Valley (Region II), Central Luzon (Region III), Calabarzon (Region IV-A), Mimaropa (Region IV-B), Bicol Region (Region V), National Capital Region and Cordillera Administrative Region);
  • Visayas, 56 000 km2, composed of three administrative regions: Western Visayas (Region VI), Central Visayas (Region VII) and Eastern Visayas (Region VIII));
  • Mindanao, 102 000 km2, composed of six administrative regions: Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX), Northern Mindanao (Region X), Davao Region (Region XI), Soccsksargen (Region XII), Caraga (Region XIII) and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

The Philippines has a varied topography with highlands and numerous valleys. Its four major lowland plains are the central plain and the Cagayan valley in Luzon, and the Agusan and Cotabato valleys in Mindanao. These lowlands contrast sharply with the adjacent high mountain areas of the central and east Cordilleras and the Zambales mountains. The highest peaks are almost 3 000 m above sea level at less than 30 km from the sea. There are many active volcanos such as Mayon, Mount Pinatubo, and Taal. Lying on the northwestern fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experience frequent seismic and volcanic activities.

In 2009, the total cultivated area was approximately 10.5 million ha, of which 52 percent (5.4 million ha) were for annual crops and 48 percent (5.1 million ha) for permanent crops (Table 1). In 1995, the total cultivated area was around 9.9 million ha, of which 56 percent was for annual crops.


The climate is tropical and monsoonal with uniform temperature, on average 27 ░C throughout the year. Humidity is relatively high, above 70 percent everywhere all year except in southern Tagalog, where it falls to 65 percent in March/April. There is low solar radiation, diversity of rainfall and high frequency of tropical cyclones. The main air streams affecting the Philippines are the northeast monsoon, known locally as the amihan, from late October to March, the southwest monsoon, known locally as the habagat, from May to October and the North Pacific trade winds, are dominant during April and early May. Many of the larger islands of the Philippines have high mountain ranges, most of which lie along a generally north-south axis across the paths of movement of the important air streams. Thus, apart from variations in temperature caused by elevation, the orographic effects of mountains significantly influences regional rainfall patterns by causing increased precipitation on windward slopes and rain shadows in their lee during the monsoon periods.

The average annual rainfall is about2 348 mm/year, but it varies from around 960 mm in General Santos City in southeast Mindanao to more than 4 050 mm in Infanta in central Luzon. The most extreme annual rainfall events ever recorded are 94 mm at Vigan in Ilocos Sur (northern Luzon) in 1948 and 9 006 mm in Baguio City (northern Luzon) in 1910.

The rainfall pattern and annual amount are influenced mainly by altitude and wind. The northwest of the country has a dry season from November to April and a wet season during the rest of the year, called the southwest monsoon. The southeast receives rainfall all year round, but with a pronounced maximum from November to January during the northeast monsoon. In the areas not directly exposed to the winds, rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, or there are two seasons but not very pronounced. From November to April the weather is relatively dry while it is relatively wet the rest of the year. The lowest rainfall occurs in the provinces of Cebu, Bohol and Cotabato in the centre of the country.

The archipelago lies in the typhoon belt, and many islands are liable to extensive flooding and damage during the typhoon season from June to December. The frequency of typhoons is greater in the northern portion of the archipelago than in the south. Usually, two or three typhoons reach the country each year.


In 2009, the total population was about 91.7 million, of which around 51 percent lived in rural areas (Table 1). The average annual demographic growth is an estimated 1.9 percent for 1999-2009. In 2009, the population density was 306 inhabitants/km2 against 236 inhabitants/km2, in 1996, ranging from 47 inhabitants/km2 in Agusan del Sur in Region X in Mindanao to 348 inhabitants/km2 in southern Tagalog in Region IV in Luzon, and more than 13 000 inhabitants/km2 in the Capital Manila.

In 2008, 93 percent of the urban and 87 percent of the rural population had access to improved drinking water respectively.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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