A group of Filipino forestry officials look over a burnt-out section of prime tropical forests destroyed by nomadic slash-and-burn farmers in Suriago del Sur, province of Mindanao, the most southern of the Philippines' major islands. - - General: General. The Republic of the Philippines is made up of more than 7 000 islands stretching approximately 1 500 km off the coast of the Asian mainland in the western Pacific. Its 60 million citizens speak eight major languages and 70 different dialects. In addition, English is taught to all school children and is often the only language that Filipinos of the widely scattered major and minor islands have in common. In their efforts to develop their country, Filipinos have received considerable outside aid, both bilateral and international. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has carried out several hundred projects in the Philippines and there are 25 FAO-assisted projects, large and small, in the country today.