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Country Profile

The Philippines is an archipelago made up of more than 7,000 islands, composed of three main island groups: Luzon, Visaya and Mindanao. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, it has an area of 300,000 square kilometers, and is one of the world’s great reservoirs of biodiversity with hundreds of native species.

The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, but poverty and inequality continues to be a considerable challenge. It’s also incredibly diverse, with 19 recognised languages spoken across the Philippines.

Our special focus area is the island of Mindanao, which contains 8 out of the country’s 10 poorest provinces, some with poverty levels as high as 70%. This breeds inequality that feeds conflict and breaks down social cohesion in many areas. There is a need to share skills and knowledge with communities to help people rise above these challenges and enable them to take control of their lives.

Our work

VSO has been working in the Philippines since 1964. Image: 1960s volunteer Roy Bateman trying a root zone insecticide applicator designed by fellow VSO volunteer Philip Sykes.

VSO has an active presence in the Philippines since 1964 when the first batch of VSO volunteers arrived in-country to provide education and health support to schools and universities. Over time, VSO Philippines’ programme expanded to also focus on livelihoods, environment, disability, gender and peacebuilding. In partnership with local organisations and government agencies, thousands of VSO volunteers of various nationalities worked in and with communities in different parts of the country.

Resilience for peace and social cohesion

Today, VSO Philippines’ programme has a huge focus on peace efforts in post-conflict and fragile areas in southern Mindanao.

The area experiences higher-than-country poverty and infant mortality rates. This exacerbates intercultural strife within communities and conflict between armed groups and the government. Recent peace initiatives and agreements need to fulfil the promise of developed communities, as years of strife left Mindanao marginalized and lagging behind other regions of the country.

Through a range of volunteering approaches, VSO has worked with local partners in many of Mindanao’s coastal areas and hinterland communities, amid conflict situations, to help address poverty and other drivers of conflict. Our international volunteers from various nationalities, national (Filipino) volunteers and our network of youth and local volunteers have helped create peaceful, harmonious, and cohesive relationships among Moro and non-Moro communities.

Ormoc City, Philippines damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 is licensed under CC BY-SA

Ormoc City, Philippines damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013

Disaster risk reduction (DRR)

VSO believes that without effective risk management and resilience building, our investments, programme results and the people that we work with remain vulnerable to shocks and stresses. Investing in managing and building resilience is essential to reducing poverty and protecting development outcomes. VSO’s disaster risk reduction and management efforts include working with partners to build the capacities of communities to prepare for,  deal with, and reduce people’s vulnerabilities to natural hazards, and climate change,  noting that the Philippines is one of the world top disaster hotspots.

Youth engagement

VSO values and has a particular focus on the youth, especially in fragile areas in Mindanao.  We believe:

  • Educating the youth is a necessary precondition in building a strong, prosperous and peaceful society.
  • Mobilising the youth to help address community issues, involving them in economic initiatives, enable them to gain a sense of agency, and leadership towards youth’s lasting commitment for a better community and society.

Philippines volunteer

Filipino volunteers promoting the International Volunteers Day and VSO’s 60th anniversary

Our volunteer network

VSO speaks of more than 1,600 skilled Filipino volunteers, who were once deployed to different countries. Upon their return to the Philippines, many continue their volunteering involvement through VSO and other organisations. With VSO, they help in peace building as well as in addressing other issues related to sustainable development goals (SDGs).  

Keep up to date with recent activities via our Facebook page:

For more information on programs and partnerships:

VSO Philippines Country Office:

2/f Sazon Building Mc Arthur Highway, Matina, Davao City, 8000 Philippines

Phone: +
Mobile: +63.939.183.3450

Interested in volunteering in the Philippines ?

Find out more and see volunteer roles available.

volunteer in the Philippines