General overview: The transportation system faces the fundamental geographic challenge that the Philippines is a far-flung archipelago. This fact offers a partial explanation for the country’s relatively undeveloped transportation system. The road network is mostly unpaved, only slightly more than half of the limited railroad system is in operation, and only a few ports have major passenger and cargo terminals. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hopes to establish a highway and ferry network that will ease travel across the archipelago.
Roads: Although an extensive road network covers almost the entire nation, the quality varies widely, and traffic congestion is common, particularly in Manila. Of the 160,000-kilometer network, only 17 percent is paved. The remainder consists of gravel or earth tracks. In urban areas, transportation is available by car, bus, light rail, metro rail, and jeepney. The highly decorated but popular jeepney, a derivative of the World War II-era U.S. Army jeep, has been adapted to public transportation. In the provinces, buses, jeepneys, and three-wheeled taxis are the main modes of ground transportation.
Railroads: The Philippines has 897 kilometers of railroads, but much of the network in the north is closed because of its poor condition. The main railroad line, of which 440 kilometers are operational, is located on the island of Luzon, the largest island in the archipelago and home of Manila. On Luzon, the Philippine National Railways provides long-distance service, while in Metropolitan Manila, the Metro Rail Transit Authority and Light Rail Transit Authority provide elevated, light-rail service.
Ports: As an archipelago, the Philippines has more than 1,000 ports, of which 117 are regarded as international ports. The Philippines Port Authority, which administers the ports, has the mission of promoting maritime trade within the context of the Philippines’ hoped-for transformation into a newly industrialized country. About 12 of the 117 international ports have major cargo and passenger terminals. The premier cargo terminal is in the Port of Manila. The domestic ports service inter-island boats, ferries, and roll-on, roll-off vessels. Some remote islands are accessible only by boat. In 2003 privately controlled ports accounted for 54 percent of total cargo serviced. Private ports generally handle more international trade, whereas government-run ports service mainly domestic trade. Inland Waterways: The Philippines has 3,219 kilometers of inland waterways. The nation’s inland waterway system is the thirty-second largest in the world. Civil Aviation/Airports: The Philippines has 87 airports, including four major international airports: Mactan-Cebu International on Mactan Island in Cebu province, Ninoy Aquino International in Manila, Diosdado Macapagal International at the former U.S. Air Force base at Clark Field, north of Manila, and Davao International Airport near Davao City on Mindanao. Most of the other regional airports are substandard. The government is working on improving the civil aviation infrastructure. A legal dispute is holding up the construction of a new terminal at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The flagship airline is Philippine Airlines, which has a fleet of 30 Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
Pipelines: In October 2001, multinational energy companies began to tap natural gas from the Malampaya offshore field in the South China Sea by completing a 502-kilometer pipeline, one of the longest deep-water pipelines in the world. The Malampaya field is believed to contain 2.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The natural gas will be used to fuel three power plants with a combined annual capacity of 2,700 megawatts.