Population: 107.7 Million
GDP Growth: 5.9% in 2019; 0.6% forecast for 2020
Life Expectancy: 71 years
Median Age: 25.7 years

The Philippines is Southeast Asia’s oldest democracy and occupies a strategic location in the region. Its archipelago lies between the Philippine Sea to its east, and the hotly contested South China Sea to its west.

The Philippines is a treaty ally and longtime economic and security partner of the United States. But that once-warm relationship has cooled under President Rodrigo Duterte who has sought closer ties with China and partnership in the One Belt, One Road initiative. In 2016, China became the Philippines’ largest trade partner, and in 2017, the country’s biggest source of foreign investment.


The China-Philippines relationship, however, has been tested by increased tension over disputed territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea. That body of water, and the rocks, islands and reefs scattered across it, are contested by six governments. It is home to rich fishing grounds and carries a sizeable chunk of the world's merchant shipping.

The previous Philippine government challenged China's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, winning a landmark victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Duterte, however, sidelined that award and agreed to pursue bilateral talks over the two countries' competing territorial claims. In the meantime, China has continued to press its sweeping sovereignty claims, with regular incursions into Philippine waters and intimidation of Filipino fishermen.

Web page produced by: Minh-Ha Le
Videos & Photos: Radio Free Asia
Editing: H. Leo Kim, Mat Pennington
Produced by Radio Free Asia

© 2020 RFA All Rights Reserved.