Nearly 28 per cent of the Philippines' 97 million people live below the poverty line, but its government hopes sustained economic growth will help reduce this to 16 per cent by 2016.
In light of this growth, the country is focussing its attention on implementing crucial structural reforms that can sustain inclusive growth, create more and better jobs, and eradicate extreme poverty.
Australian volunteer assignments in the Philippines support the key Australian aid country program priority areas of enhancement to the foundations of economic growth, creating transparent and accountable governance, and improving conditions for peace and stability.
Legazpi City is the capital of Albay province in the Bicol region and is located approximately 500 kilometres south of Manila. As the administrative, economic, educational, transportation and service centre of the region, it is regarded as one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines. Legazpi City has a population of about 180,000.
The city is known for its stunning natural scenery and sites, lending itself to adventure and fitness. It is located at the foot of Mount Mayon, where the Mayon Volcano was once recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World for its perfect cone shape. There are many other cultural and historical attractions on offer and modes of transportation include taxis, jeepneys, pedicabs and private cars for hire. There is no specific dry season; the temperature is coldest in December and warmest during June.
Cebu City is the capital of Cebu province, which is the commercial, trade, educational and industrial hub of the Visayas island group, and is one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines. Cebu is the oldest city in the country and serves as the gateway to the Visayas with its vast seaport and international airport.
Cebu City is the second largest metropolitan area in the Philippines, with over a million people, busy traffic, giant shopping malls, a business park, several universities and a multitude of banking and exchange facilities. Jeepney or buses are the most affordable forms of transport, but taxis are also widely available. The city enjoys tropical weather throughout the year; the dry season is from December to May and brings a cool followed by a very hot period, while the rainy season begins in July and brings torrential downpours.
Baguio is located above the mountain peaks of Benguest province, approximately 1,500 metres above sea level. It has the title of the 'summer capital', due to its cooler climate. Given its altitude, Baguio's average temperature ranges from 18-20 degrees, which is about 8 degrees cooler than anywhere else in the Philippines. It was originally constructed as a mountain retreat by US military forces in the early 1900s, and today is shaped by tourism and education, with college students doubling the city's population for most of the year.
Baguio is about 250 kilometres north of Manila, and given its location in the mountainous region of Cordillera, it is uniquely characterised by tropical vegetation and pines. Jeepneys and taxis are widely available. The city offers cinemas, hotels, restaurants, department stores, shopping centres, an array of culinary options, as well as a variety of cultural, historical and scenic attractions.
Quezon City is located approximately 10 kilometres north of Manila. It is the second largest city in the Philippines and the most populous with nearly 3 million people. Once the nation's capital, Quezon City is more than four times the size of Manila in area and is characterised by rolling hills and a young population; over 40% of the population is younger than 20 years.
Quezon City is a true "lifestyle city", with an abundance of restaurants, theatres, shopping malls and other amenities and services, including the third largest shopping centre in the world. Quezon City is also becoming a hub of information technology, with the country's second densest concentration of IT parks and buildings. Temperatures are high throughout the year, with the driest period from January to April and high rainfall from July to October.
Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and is located on the eastern shore of Manila Bay. It is an ever-growing metropolis with around 1.6 million people and the highest population density of any city in the world. With this title comes issues of overcrowding, traffic congestion, crime, noise and air pollution. Given its notoriety for traffic congestion, getting around can be problematic, particularly during rush hour. The light rail system is a great way to travel over traffic and avoid the congestion, though it can also be very busy.
Manila is an international gateway city, with an international airport and both local and international shipping from Manila Bay. It is hot and humid throughout the year, with the coolest months between November and February and a warm rainy season from June to October. Manila offers quality medical services and is known as a city of dining and drinking given its endless food and bar options. There are also numerous sites to visit, such as mosques, churches, museums, theatres, shopping malls, boutiques and markets.