The Philippines is an archipelago nation in Southeast Asia. It comprises more than 7,000 islands of volcanic origin, with the Philippine Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Sulu Sea to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the west. The Philippines is pretty much due east of Vietnam and north of Sulawesi.
The estimated 2006 population of the Philippines was 89,468,677. The largest ethnic/racial group is Tagalog, with both Filipino (which is based on Tagalog) and English being official languages. The literacy rate is nearly 93%, and the population is primarily Roman Catholic.
The largest city and capital of the Philippines is Manila, with about 10.5 million people in the greater metropolitan area. Luzon is the largest island at 40,420 square miles (104,687 sq km), followed by Mindanao at 36,537 square miles (94,631 sq km), and Samar at 5,124 square miles (13,271 sq km). The total area of the islands is 115,831 square miles (300,000 sq km).
The land of the Philippines is primarily mountainous, and lies within the typhoon belt. It also is affected by active volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Excessive deforestation to support the wood products industry and to clear land for agriculture has led to soil erosion. A third of the Philippine forests were cut down in the years 1990 to 2005.
Other industries in the Philippines include electronics assembly and garment and footwear manufacturing. The main agricultural products of the Philippines include sugarcane, coconuts, rice, and several tropical fruits, including pineapple.
The islands, populated from the Asian mainland tens of thousands of years ago, were claimed for Spain by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898 in the Treaty of Paris which concluded the Spanish-American War. This day — 12 June 1898 — is celebrated as the national Independence Day. The Philippines became independent on the American Independence Day in 1946, with Manuel A Roxas y Acuña as the first elected president. As of 2007, the Philippines is still a republic and is headed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was elected in 2001.