Once a colony of Spain, the Philippines came under American control following the end of the Spanish-American War (1898). An independence movement fought a guerilla campaign against US Marines until 1901, when the leader of the rebels was captured. Washington appointed a commission to oversee the administration of the islands, which lasted until the 1930s when the US began to prepare Filipinos for increased sovereignty. That effort was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. Following the recapture of the islands by US forces led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Philippines finally gained independence in 1946.
Lay of the Land: The Philippines is a nation of 11 major islands and over 7,000 smaller ones stretching north-south for 1,200 miles, about 700 miles east of the coast of southeast Asia. The island chain, which merges with Taiwan in the north and Indonesia and Malaysia in the south, divides the South China Sea from the Pacific Ocean proper. Two thirds of the land area is concentrated on two islands, Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south. The varied terrain includes plains, valleys, marshlands, plateaus, and coastal mountain ranges. There are many natural harbors along the 14,000 mile coastline.
The first inhabitants of the Philippines arrived from the Asian mainland around 25,000 BC. They were followed by waves of Indonesian and Malayan settlers. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan visited the Philippines in 1521, and a subsequent exploration by the Spanish named the islands after Prince Philip (later Philip II of Spain). The Philippines was a colony of Spain until the late 18th century.
Following the end of the Spanish-American War, US officials insisted their role in the Philippines was not colonial but one of “tutelage” to prepare the islands for eventual independence. President William McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission, a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman, president of Cornell University, and including Admiral Dewey and General Otis, to investigate conditions in the islands and to make recommendations. The commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence, but they declared that the Filipinos were not ready for it. Instead, the Commission recommended the establishment of a civilian government, including a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a system of free public elementary schools.
Bilateral trade between the United States and the Philippines is led by the sale of semiconductors. Semiconductors and related devices are sold in larger numbers to the US by the Philippines than anything else, an average of $2 billion a year.
US Marines Tried in Rape Case
The State Department reports that in 2008 Philippine security forces and antigovernment insurgents committed a number of arbitrary and unlawful killings that include political killings and killings of journalists. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigated 173 complaints of killings; 67 of these cases were classified as politically motivated. These numbers have increased from 71 and 25, respectively. The CHR suspected personnel from the Philippine National Police and army in a number of the killings of leftist activists operating in rural areas. Allegations of summary executions by government security forces were referred to the NGO Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP). The TFDP was unable to investigate all of these allegations, but it alleged the summary executions of four individuals by government forces through year’s end.
Paul V. McNutt
Harry K. Thomas, Jr., President Barack Obama’s choice for U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who presented his credentials April 27, 2010.
Kristie Kenney was appointed .U.S. ambassador to Thailand by President Barack Obama in July 2010, and was confirmed on September 29, 2010.