The Philippines' Geographic Challenge

the Philippines is a collection of over

7,000 islands situated at the confluence

of the South China Sea the Indonesian

archipelago the Philippine Sea and

Pacific Ocean it forms the outer edge of

maritime Southeast Asia and for much of

its modern history has served as a

gateway between Western powers and

continental Asia a former colony of both

Spain and the United States the

Philippines today consists of three

island clusters Luzon Visayas and

Mindanao Luzon with the country's

capital Manila is the political cultural

and economic core of modern Philippines

it is highly urbanized relative to the

rest of the country boasts a large port

and deep Harbor and accounts for roughly

one third of the Philippines GDP

Mindanao has long been a hotbed for

political unrest and insurgent movements

and is populated by the predominantly

Muslim Moro tribes it is also an

important fruit and produce exporter the

Philippines is shaped by sharp

Geographic economic and social divisions

between a primarily urban north and

Luzon and a heavily agricultural poorer

south this along with the fractured

Island geography makes effective

national integration difficult it also

undermines manila's efforts to play a

stronger role throughout the South China

Sea region or guard against external

infringement on its territorial waters

especially from China that weakness is

apparent today as China's increasingly

aggressive moves to assert its own

maritime claims test Manila's voice in

groups like ASEAN as well as its

alliance with the US while the

Philippines location at the entrance to

maritime Southeast Asia makes it

geopolitically significant internal

imbalances continue to hamper its

ability to actively defend its own

claims let alone project power