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TYPHOON UPDATE: November 15, 2013

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan have finally received some much needed food and water with the U.S. military playing the lead role. In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development donated additional food and supplies to help aid the international relief efforts.

Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, decimated parts of the Philippines last weekend. President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday that the typhoon may have killed as many as 5,000 people.

Philippines description

Positioned on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, along the Ring of Fire, the Philippines is the second-largest archipelago on the planet, with over 7,100 individual islands counted within its borders.

The history of the Philippines begins with its first inhabitants arriving via primitive boats nearly 67,000 years ago. Various tribes roamed the islands until small kingdoms began establishing roots during the first millennium.

For several centuries there was no unifying power within the Philippine archipelago, rather the islands were controlled by various sultans.

Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521, and placed the islands under Spanish ruling. Colonization was quick to follow, and the first European settlements began to pop up in 1565.

For hundreds of years the Philippines were a Spanish colony, but were ceded to the U.S. in 1898, after the Spanish-American War.

The Philippines became one of the main focal points of battles between Japan and the U.S. during World War II, and at the end of the war (in 1946) with the U.S. victory in the South Pacific, the Philippines attained total independence.

During their early years as a new country, the Philippines faced various challenges, and had to be almost completely rebuilt following the devastation brought on by World War II.

Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in 1965, and towards the end of his second term, he declared martial law after being constitutionally barred from obtaining a third.

The dictatorial government of Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986, and since then, a long parade of electoral presidential problems and internal struggles have continued.

In addition, Abu Sayyaf, an armed Muslim insurgency group operating in the south, has collectively plagued the country for many years, and is now causing serious disruptions, especially in western tourism visits.

On June 25, 1991, Mount Pinatubo violently erupted, severely weakening the already strained economy. The volcano's eruption marked the second largest of the 20th century, and its effects were felt worldwide.

In 1992, after many years of negotiations, the U.S. finally closed its last military bases on the islands, and (in the view of many), the Philippines lost much needed revenue from that action.

To further add to their problems, decades of intensive logging, inequitable land distribution, agricultural expansion along with failed policies, have caused severe deforestation and land degration.

The government has established more than 270 protected areas covering more than 10 million acres. Forest conservation areas encompass approximately six million acres.

Tourism has begun to flourish in the 21st century with continued growth each year. Most of the visitors come from the U.S., Japan, South Korea along with European visitors.

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