With their tropical climate, heavy rainfall, and naturally fertile volcanic soil, the Philippines have a strong agricultural sector, which employs over a third of the population. Sugarcane, coconuts, rice, corn, bananas, cassava, pineapples, and mangoes are the most important crops, and tobacco and coffee are also grown. Carabao (water buffalo), pigs, chickens, goats, and ducks are widely raised, and there is dairy farming. Fishing is a common occupation; the Sulu Archipelago is noted for its pearls and mother-of-pearl.
The islands have one of the world's greatest stands of commercial timber. There are also mineral resources such as petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, copper, zinc, chromite, and iron ore. Nonmetallic minerals include rock asphalt, gypsum, asbestos, sulfur, and coal. Limestone, adobe, and marble are quarried.
Manufacturing is concentrated in metropolitan Manila, near the nation's prime port, but there has been considerable industrial growth on Cebu, Negros, and Mindanao. Garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and wood products are manufactured, and the assembly of electronics and automobiles is important. Other industries include food processing and petroleum refining. The former U.S. military base at Subic Bay was redeveloped in the 1990s as a free-trade zone.
The economy has nonetheless remained weak, and many Filipinos have sought employment overseas; remittances from an estimated 8 million Filipinos abroad, both contract workers and émigrés, are economically important. Chief exports are semiconductors, electronics, transportation equipment, clothing, copper, petroleum products, coconut oil, fruits, lumber and plywood, machinery, and sugar. The main imports are electronic products, mineral fuels, machinery, transportation equipment, iron and steel, textiles, grains, chemicals, and plastic. The chief trading partners are the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.