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Street in Intramuros

The Philippines (Republic of the Philippines) is an archipelago of 7,641 islands within Seas of the western Pacific. The country splits into 3 island groups; Luzon (north), Visayas (centre), and Mindanao (south).

Austronesians settled the islands in 4000 BC displacing Negrito (Pygmy) hunter-gatherers. A variety of Buddhist and Hindu trading states were later founded, followed, after 1300 AD, by Islamic Sultanates. These were absorbed by the Brunei Empire after 1485 although many other states stayed independent.

After Magellan arrived in 1521, the island states were incorporated into the Catholic Spanish Empire which expanded to create the Spanish East Indies, at first governed from Mexico. In 1872 the Hispanic population sought independence and in 1899 the First Philippine Republic was declared just as the islands were ceded to the USA after the Spanish–American War.

The USA did not recognize the Republic, only allowing independence in 1946 after the defeat of Japan. The new government, supported by the USA, became dictatorial and corrupt leading to a People Power Revolution in 1986.

Since then reforms have been hampered by debt, corruption, coup attempts, communist and Islamic insurgency, and natural disasters. However, the country has had strong growth, moving to a services and manufacturing economy.

The Philippines lies on the margin of the Eurasian tectonic plate on the west and the Philippine tectonic plate on the east. Its islands, the Philippine trench on the east, and the surrounding sedimentary basins were all created from the effects of generally westwards-directed subduction at this margin.

The country thus experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. The islands are bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea to the west, and the Celebes Sea to the south. The Sulu Sea is surrounded by islands and borders the province of Sabah in Borneo to the southwest.

Most of the mountainous islands are volcanic in origin, covered in tropical rainforest. The highest mountain is Mount Apo at 2,954m on Mindanao. Due to the volcanic origin, mineral deposits are abundant and geothermal energy has also been harnessed.

The country has produced small amounts of gas from onshore Luzon since 1994 and also produced a tiny amount of oil and gas on the smaller island of Cebu in 1959 and 1960. However, onshore production is generally negligible. A minor field was discovered in 2013.

The country began producing offshore oil from fields northwest of Palawan Island in the Palawan Basin of the South China Sea in 1979. Some modest growth potential is possible here. In 2001 the much larger Malampaya-Camago gas-condensate field came onstream in deep waters of the Palawan Basin. Other developments are forecast by Globalshift over the medium term in order to raise gas and natural gas liquids output to meet surging indigenous demand.


Map and National Flag

Southeast Asia

The Philippines

E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)

Statistics (in 2020)


101 mm






Brief history of the country

The Philippines is a constitutional republic with a presidential system governed as a unitary state (with the exception of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). The President is head of state and head of government elected by popular vote for a single 6-year term presiding over a cabinet.

A bicameral Congress is composed of a 24-seat Senate, elected to a 6-year term, and a 292-seat House of Representatives elected to a 3-year term.

The oil and gas industry is overseen by the Department of Energy. The Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) is the NOC established in 1973 to ensure a stable supply of petroleum products and subsequently to control exploration, exploitation and development of all energy resources in the country.

The PNOC Exploration Corporation is the upstream subsidiary of PNOC.

The Philippines was a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967.

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Philippines Gallery Datafiles

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