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Geosciences Journal

Vol. 12, No. 1, p. 7 -17, March 2008

DOI 10.1007/s12303-008-0002-0
Tectonic setting of a composite terrane: A review of the Philippine island
arc system
Graciano P. Yumul, Jr.*
Tectonics and Geodynamics Group, National Institute of Geological Sciences, Coll
ege of Science,
Carla B. Dimalanta
University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Victor B. Maglambayan
Edanjarlo J. Marquez Department of Physical Sciences and Mathematics, University
of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines
ABSTRACT: Features resulting from the interplay of arc magmatism,
ophiolite accretion, ocean basin closure and other subsequent
tectonic processes are preserved in the Philippine island arc
system. Subduction of ocean floor along the trenches surrounding
the Philippines is a major factor in shaping the geologic history of
this island arc system. Stress-strain relationships, as manifest in
both the regional and local setting of the archipelago, are derived
from the interaction of at least four major plates: Sundaland, Philippine
Mobile Belt, Philippine Sea and, to a certain extent, the
Indo-Australian plate. Collision zones in this island arc system are
characterized by the involvement of oceanic bathymetric highs
(seamounts, spreading ridge, submerged continental fragment). A
major strike-slip fault, the Philippine Fault Zone, with compressional
and extensional components, traverses the whole archipelago
where all excess stress not accommodated by the surrounding
trenches is taken up. Tholeiitic through adakitic to calc-alkaline
rock suites characterize the different magmatic arcs. Exposed oceanic
lithospheric fragments exhibit transitional mid-ocean ridge,
back arc basin to island arc geochemical characteristics. The
observed crustal thickness in the Philippines resulted from combined
magmatic (volcanism) and amagmatic (ophiolite accretion)
processes, with the former being the dominant factor.
Key words: tectonics, island arc, oceanic bathymetric highs, subduction,
ophiolites, geophysics, Philippines
Studies on how the Philippine island arc system has evolved
through space and time have been of interest among various
Earth scientists (e.g., Balce et al., 1976; Rangin et al.,
1999a; Aurelio, 2000a; Milsom et al., 2006; Queao et al.,
2007). This is brought about by the unique setting that this
archipelago occupies in the western Pacific region. The
Philippines offers a glimpse, based on present-day landocean interactions, of what has transpired in the past (e.g.,
Rangin et. al., 1990; Quebral et al., 1996; Dimalanta and
Yumul, 2003, 2004; Pubellier et al., 2003a, 2003b; Tamayo

et al., 2004). Results of terrane accretion, ocean basin closure,

arc formation, and indenter tectonics are some of the
features recognized in this island arc system. With the
advent of modern-day technology (e.g., global positioning
system, mantle tomography) and recent onland and offshore
data, the tectonic evolution of the country is better understood
(e.g., Besana et al., 1997; Bautista et al., 2001; Zamoras
and Matsuoka, 2004; Galgana et al., 2007). The purpose
of this review paper is to present an overview on the current
knowledge of tectonic setting of the Philippines. This information
will contribute to the existing database of the geologic
setting and tectonic evolution of global island arc systems.
The Philippine archipelago is bounded to the east and
west by subduction zones. A major left-lateral strike-slip
fault zone longitudinally cuts the island (Fig. 1). West of the
archipelago are the east-dipping subduction zones composed
of the Early Miocene Manila Trench, Middle Miocene
Negros Trench, Late Miocene to Pliocene Sulu Trench and
the Cotabato Trench. The western boundary marks the subduction
of the Early Oligocene to Early Miocene South
China Sea plate (Manila Trench), the Early to Middle
Miocene Sulu Sea plate (Negros and Sulu Trenches), and
the Eocene Celebes basin plate (Cotabato Trench) (e.g.,
Hayes and Lewis, 1984; Mitchell et al., 1986; Rangin et al.,
1999a,b). On the eastern boundary of the archipelago, the
Eocene West Philippine Sea plate, through oblique subduction,
is being consumed along the west-dipping East Luzon
Trough-Philippine Trench (e.g., Hamburger et al., 1983;
Ozawa et al., 2004). All of these trenches are recognized as
earthquake generation regions and are natural hazards to the
country (Barrier et al., 1991; Bautista et al., 2001). The archi
pelago is also surrounded by marginal basins. These include
*Corresponding author:
the South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, Molucca Sea,
Also with Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and
and Philippine Sea. The Early Oligocene to Early Miocene
Development, Department of Science and Technology, Bicutan,
Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines South China Sea plate is made up of three subb
asins: the

Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., Carla B. Dimalanta, Victor B. Maglambayan, and Edanjarlo

J. Marquez
The Philippine island arc system is surrounded by trenches, marginal basins and
oceanic bathymetric highs (OBH). Moreover,
the entire length of the archipelago is traversed by the left-lateral Philippine
Fault Zone and some of its significant splays. Dashed line
with open triangle corresponds to the proto-Southeast Bohol Trench. Inset shows
the three major plates that bound the Philippine
Sundaland-Eurasian, Philippine Sea and the Indo-Australian plates (m
odified from map generated using the Online Map Creation
at See text for discussion. SSSZ = Siayan-Sinda
ngan Suture Zone; SCDL = Sindangan-Cotabato- Daguma
Lineament, T = Tablas, R = Romblon and S = Sibuyan.
NW subbasin, the SW subbasin, and the east subbasin. The the other hand, exposes
E-W trending magnetic lineations
east and northwest subbasins exhibit, in general, a N-S (Hall, 2002). The Eocene
West Philippine basin plate repopening direction (Taylor and Hayes, 1983; Briais et al., resents one of the mar
ginal basins of the Philippine Sea
1993). The Early to Middle Miocene Sulu Sea plate is made plate. It includes the
Shikoku basin, Parece Vela basin and
up of two subbasins: the northwest subbasin underlain by the Marianas basin (Oki
no et al., 1999; Ohara, 2006; Ishiarc
material and the southeast subbasin underlain by oce-hara and Koda, 2007). Its s
preading center, the Central
anic crust (Rangin, 1989). Magnetic lineations recognized, Basin Fault, preserve
s evidence of magmatism up to the
though not well-delineated, suggest N-S opening (Roeser, Pliocene (Fujioka et al
., 1999). South of the Philippines in
1991), which is interpreted to be a relict of the clockwise eastern Mindanao is
the northern extension of the Molucca
rotation the southeast subbasin had undergone. The original Sea basin. This basi
n had closed in the vicinity of eastern
trend of the magnetic lineations is NE-SW (Yumul et al., Mindanao in a zipper-ty
pe fashion and is in the process of
2000) consistent with the general tectonic trend in this part closure in relatio
n to the subsequent collision of the Sangihe
of the island arc system. The Eocene Celebes Sea basin, on and Halmahera islands
(Bader and Pubellier, 2000). The

Tectonic setting of the Philippines

Molucca Sea basin-derived Talaud ophiolite exposed in
Talaud island has been dated as Eocene (Evans et al., 1983).
The left-lateral strike-slip Philippine Fault Zone, takes up
whatever stress that cannot be accommodated by the surrounding
subduction zones (Aurelio, 2000b) (Fig. 1). The
present-day East Luzon Trough is a rejuvenation of the
proto-East Luzon Trough, which is responsible for the intrusion
of Eocene to Oligocene magmatic rocks exposed in the
Northern Sierra Madre range (Hamburger et al., 1983). The
archipelago is a composite terrane and the various geologic
blocks have continental, oceanic, island arc or ophiolitic
affinity (Karig, 1983; McCabe et al., 1985; Yumul et al., 1997;
Pubellier et al., 2004). In general, the Philippines is made
up of the aseismic Palawan microcontinental block and the
seismically-active Philippine Mobile Belt characterized by
earthquakes and active volcanoes (Yumul et al., 2005, 2007).
Indentation of the oceanic leading edge of the Palawan
block with the Philippine Mobile Belt and its subsequent
subduction possibly started during the Early Miocene with
the collision terminating by the Pliocene as exposed in Mindoro
island (e.g., Bellon and Yumul, 2001; Yumul et al.,
2003a; Yumul et al., 2005 and references therein). This collision
resulted in the emplacement of an ophiolite, cusping,
and microblock rotation among others (Rangin et al., 1985;
Jumawan et al., 1998; Yumul et al., 2000, 2005). The continuing
collision between the Palawan block and the Philippine
Mobile Belt is being taken up east of the Tablas,
Romblon, and Sibuyan islands (e.g., Faure et al., 1989;
Pineda and Aurelio, 1991; Yumul et al., 2003a) (Fig. 1).
In terms of major plates, Sundaland bounds the western
portion of the Philippines whereas the eastern side is defined
by the Philippine Sea plate, specifically that of the West Philippine
basin plate. South of the archipelago is the Indo-Australian
plate. Some parts of the Philippine Mobile Belt are
modeled to have been derived from the Indo-Australian margin
(Pubellier et al., 2003a). Based on paleomagnetic data,
most of the islands belonging to the Philippine Mobile Belt
have been translated northwestward and rotated clockwise
during the process (Hall, 2002).
During the northwest translation of the Philippine Mobile
Belt away from the Indo-Australian margin, its present-day
western margin has acted as the leading edge whereas the
eastern portion was the trailing edge (Yumul, 2007). In the
process, evidence of more tectonic interactions involving
collision, subduction and suturing are found along the western
side of the archipelago (Yumul, 2007 and references
therein). Such interaction is discernible in terms of the collision
of the Philippine Mobile Belt with several oceanic
bathymetric highs along its western margin. There are at least
four major oceanic bathymetric highs impinging on the
Philippines. These are the NW Luzon oceanic bathymetric
high, the Scarborough seamount, the Palawan microcontinental

block, and the Zamboanga-Sulu Peninsula (Fig. 1).

In the north, the NW Luzon oceanic bathymetric high
was first recognized by Bautista et al. (2001). It is located
offshore of northwest Luzon (Fig. 1). This bathymetric high
is believed to have caused cusping along the northern
extension of the Manila Trench (Bautista et al., 2001). Furthermore,
the extinct spreading center of the South China
Sea basin represented by the Scarborough Seamount is subducting beneath northern Luzon. Flat subduction, volcanic
arc gap, and elevation of the forearc region along which the
ridge subducts are associated with this subduction (Yang et
al., 1996). A more significant collision involves the interaction
between the Palawan microcontinental block and the
Philippine Mobile Belt. Several indentation-related features
(e.g., ophiolite emplacement, cusping, seismic gap and microblock
rotation) are observed which are believed to be related
to this collision (McCabe et al., 1985; Marchadier and Rangin,
1990; Jumawan et al., 1998; Ramos et al., 2005). The southern
part of the Palawan microcontinental block defined by the
Cagayan de Sulu ridge is colliding with the southern part of
Panay (Bellon and Rangin, 1991). Dacite and andesite from
the Cagayan de Sulu ridge has been accreted and emplaced
onland of southern Panay. Another bathymetric high that
has collided with the Philippine Mobile Belt, specifically in
Mindanao, is the Zamboanga-Sulu Peninsula (Fig. 1). Having
continental, arc and ophiolite affinities (Querubin and
Yumul, 2001; Sherlock and Barrett, 2004), this block collided
with central Mindanao during the Middle Miocene.
Subsequent tectonic events include subduction, which was
converted to strike slip fault motion along the Siayan-Sindangan
Suture Zone (Jimenez et al., 2002; Yumul et al., 2004)
(Fig. 1). This suture zone is the northwestern extension of
the Sindangan-Cotabato-Daguma Lineament as mapped by
Pubellier et al. (1991).
Based on offshore data and satellite images, two oceanic
bathymetric highs are recognized along the eastern boundary
of the Philippines. The Benham Plateau located offshore
of northeast Luzon has yet to subduct, contrary to
previous published claims (Barrier et al., 1991), as an oceanic
basin still exists between the plateau and Luzon (Fig.
1). Along the eastern side of the Philippine Trench in the
vicinity of eastern Mindanao, a small ridge chain can be
identified on the gravity anomaly map of Sandwell and Smith
(1997), which will ultimately reach the trench and collide
with Mindanao. A common denominator when a ridge subducts is that the trench is sediment-filled (e.g., De Jesus et al.,
2000). The sediment acts as lubricant facilitating the ridge
to be subducted rather than accreted into the overlying plate.
The Philippine Fault Zone is a left-lateral strike slip fault
that longitudinally cuts the whole island (Barrier et al.,

Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., Carla B. Dimalanta, Victor B. Maglambayan, and Edanjarlo

J. Marquez
1991) (Fig. 1). It has both transpressional and transtensional
components (Aurelio, 2000a). Folding and faulting related
to its transpressional feature are recognized whereas extensional
jogs along the fault zone are attributed to its transtensional
component. The Philippine Fault Zone cuts Holocene
sandstones exposed in Mati, Davao Oriental, southern Mindanao,
demonstrating its active status. The Philippine Fault
Zone formed during the Middle Miocene (Aurelio et al.,
1991) and is propagating southward. It is coupled with the
younging southward Philippine Trench (Quebral et al.,
1996; Lallemand et al., 1998). Present-day evidence also
shows that the fault zone is propagating northward (Yumul
et al., 2005). For that matter, the northern and southern tips
of the Philippine Fault Zone are characterized by horse-tail
structures consistent with an actively propagating fault system
(Pinet and Stephan, 1990) (Fig. 1).
Several subordinate faults are intimately linked to the
evolution of the Philippine Fault Zone. The left-lateral
Legaspi Lineament, acting as a transfer fault, connects the
Philippine Fault Zone with the Philippine Trench. An offshore
extension of the Philippine Fault Zone in the central
Philippines is the left-lateral Sibuyan Sea Fault. In Mindanao,
another left-lateral fault zone is present. It comprises
the NW-trending Sindangan-Cotabato-Daguma Lineament,
the northern extension of which connects with the SiayanSindangan Suture Zone (Fig. 1). This accommodates some
of the stress that is not being accommodated by the surrounding
trenches in Mindanao. Aside from accommodating
excess stress, these subordinate fault systems have also
served as hydrothermal fluid pathways manifest as ancient
and present-day geothermal systems (e.g., Sillitoe and
Gappe, 1984; Mitchell and Leach, 1991; Sajona et al., 2002).
Several arc systems associated with the different surrounding
trench systems are found in the Philippines. Interest
in these volcanic arcs is brought about by their
associated mineralization, geothermal energy potential, and
related natural hazards. The best studied arc in the Philippines
is the Luzon Arc (Fig. 2). It was formed as a result of
the subduction of the South China Sea along the Manila
Trench beginning in the Early Miocene (Balce et al., 1982;
Knittel and Defant, 1988; Teng, 1990; Maury et al., 1992;
Yumul et al., 2003a). It consists of a 1200 km-long chain of
stratovolcanoes and volcanic necks extending from eastern
Taiwan to Mindoro (Marini et al., 2005; Castillo and
Newhall, 2004). Tholeiitic through calc-alkaline to shoshonitic
rock types have been erupted in these volcanic arcs
(Defant et al., 1989; Maury et al., 1998; Polve et al., 2007).
Adakitic rocks have also been identified among the older
(>15 Ma) and younger volcanic centers (< 5 Ma) (Bellon
and Yumul, 2000; Yumul et al., 2000; Jego et al., 2005).
The Northern Luzon volcanic arc rocks have whole rock
K-Ar isotopic ages ranging from 32.3 to 5.6 Ma (Wolfe,

1981; Bellon and Yumul, 2000). The K-Ar dates from the
Bataan front-arc volcanoes range from 7.0 to 0.2 Ma, whereas
the Bataan back-arc volcanoes including the volcanic rocks
exposed in Mindoro range from 1.7 to 0.1 Ma (Defant et al.,
1989; Yumul et al., 2000) (Fig. 2).
The Northern Sierra Madre arc trends N-S in its northern
segment and bends southwest joining the NW-SE trending
Caraballo Mountains (Sajona et al., 1994) (Fig. 2). The
Northern Sierra Madre arc is made up of island arc rocks
which range in age from 49 to 43 Ma (whole rock K-Ar
dating by Wolfe, 1981). The arc is a result of ancient subduction
along the present-day East Luzon Trough. A younger
(whole rock K-Ar age of 33-24 Ma) arc sequence (Japan
International Cooperative Agency-Metal Mining Agency of
Japan, 1977), consisting mostly of volcanogenic sediments,
basaltic flows and dikes in the southern portion of the
Northern Sierra Madre, shows island arc tholeiitic to calcalkaline
affinities. Quartz diorite and other intrusive rocks
in the Caraballo Range possess primitive island arc characteristics,
and their whole rock K-Ar ages range from 39
to 27 Ma (e.g., Mitchell and Leach, 1991). On the other
hand, whole rock K-Ar ages of shoshonites and island arc
tholeiites in the Southern Sierra Madre-Polillo-Catanduanes
arc range from 36.9 to 1.2 Ma (Japan International Cooperative
Agency-Metal Mining Agency of Japan, 1977).
Subduction of the Sulu Sea basin along the Negros
Trench produced the Negros calc-alkaline volcanic arc (Fig. 2).
To the east, the East Philippine Arc extends from Bicol to
eastern Mindanao (e.g., Andal et al., 2005a; McDermott et
al., 2005) (Fig. 2). Rocks from the Bicol segment of the arc
are dominantly medium- to high-K calc-alkaline, high-Al
basalts and andesites. Magmatism was related to the westward
subduction of the Philippine Sea plate along the Philippine
Trench (Weber and Knittel, 1990; Castillo and
Newhall, 2004). In the Leyte segment, the volcanoes define
a 250 km-long NW-SE belt from Biliran to Panaon islands.
Recent volcanism is linked with subduction along the Philippine
Trench (Sajona et al., 1994). The Plio-Pleistocene
lavas are largely calc-alkaline with medium to high K contents
(Ozawa et al., 2004). The Lower Oligocene-Lower
Miocene rocks in the northeastern Mindanao segment have
erupted following an increase in the angle of subduction of
the oceanic crust along the Philippine Trench (Mitchell et
al., 1986). In the northern part of eastern Mindanao, several
andesitic rocks have been radiometrically dated as late
Pliocene-Quaternary (Mitchell and Leach, 1991). The Central
Mindanao Volcanic Arc is referred to in earlier literature
as the Agusan-Lanao flood basalts (Balce et al., 1976).
This arc is interpreted to represent a magmatic response to
the collision between the western and eastern Mindanao ca.
5 Ma (Pubellier et al., 1991; Castillo et al., 1999). The PlioPleistocene volcanoes are predominantly basaltic to basaltic
andesites with minor acidic rocks (Sajona et al., 1994). The

Tectonic setting of the Philippines

The major magmatic arcs related to subduction along the different trenches surro
unding the Philippine archipelago include:
1 Luzon (Central Cordillera), 2
Northern Sierra Madre, 3 Southern Sierra Madre-P
olillo-Catanduanes, 4
Negros, 5
Philippines, 6 Central Mindanao, 7
Cotabato-Daguma and 8
Sulu-Zamboanga (modifie
d from Mitchell and Leach, 1991). Inset
shows that the Philippines is generally underlain by crust with a thickness vary
ing from ~17 to 30 km. Two zones of thickened crust
were also identified (modified from Dimalanta and Yumul, 2004). Arrows show that
the Sunda-Eurasian plate is moving southeastward
whereas the Philippine Sea plate is moving northwestward (Kreemer et al., 2003).
subduction of the Celebes Sea plate along the Cotabato
Trench resulted into the formation of the Cotabato arc
(Aurelio, 2000b). The monzonitic-dioritic-granodioritic core
of the Daguma Range has whole rock K-Ar ages of ~30 Ma
(Pubellier et al., 1991) (Fig. 2). The affinities of the rocks
vary from island arc tholeiite to tholeiite-calc-alkaline to
exclusively calc-alkaline varieties, and the Miocene rocks
have adakite affinity (Sajona et al., 1994). The PlioceneQuaternary Sulu-Zamboanga arc extends from the southern
side of the eastern portion of the Zamboanga Peninsula to
Tawi-Tawi (Castillo et al., 2002; 2007) and is associated
with the Sulu Trench through the subduction of the Sulu

Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., Carla B. Dimalanta, Victor B. Maglambayan, and Edanjarlo

J. Marquez
Sea plate. Older volcanic rocks in the Zamboanga Peninsula
yield the whole rock K-Ar ages of 18.9 to 11.9 Ma and suggest
the existence of an Early Miocene proto-Sulu Trench
(Sajona et al., 1994; Yumul et al., 2004). The majority of
the rocks are arc tholeiites with subordinate high K calcalkaline
In closing, the different volcanic arc rocks in the Philippines
manifest geochemical signatures that show the influence
of the mantle, crust, subducted slab, sediments, and
even mantle plumes, similar to what has been observed in
other parts of the world (e.g., Sajona et al., 2000; Yumul et
al., 2003c; Macpherson et al., 2006; Currie et al., 2007; Ingle
et al., 2007).
Ophiolites and ophiolitic rocks occur in many parts of the
archipelago (Nakagawa and Franco, 1996; Pea, 1996; Dimalanta
et al., 2006) (Fig. 3). Amphibolite, quartz-albite-mica
schist and serpentinite are mapped as metamorphic soles of
these exposed oceanic lithosphere fragments. Tectonic and
sedimentary mlanges are associated with ophiolite and
ophiolitic suites (Yumul et al., 1997; De Jesus et al., 2000;
Tamayo et al., 2001; Faustino et al., 2006). Majority of the
suites are classified as Tethyan (Moores, 1982). Balce et al.
(1976) initially grouped ophiolites based on their geographic
distribution (e.g., eastern belt, western belt, central
belt) in the Philippines, whereas Tamayo et al. (2004)
assigned the ophiolite complexes in the Philippines into
four belts based on age and geochemical data. Those classified
are: Cretaceous sequences, Eocene complexes with
strong subduction signatures, ophiolites of varied ages and
ophiolite-arc components and younger sequences with
weak subduction imprints which outcrop west of the West
Philippine Suture Zone. Tamayo et al. (2004) suggest that
the majority of the Eocene ophiolites possibly resulted
from the rifting and spreading of Cretaceous ocean floor. A
corollary to this model is the idea that most of the Eocene
ophiolites are autochthonous in origin (Encarnacion et al.,
1993) (Fig. 3).
A new zonation for Philippine ophiolites and ophiolitic
complexes based on their ages and possible lithospheric
sources has been proposed (Yumul et al., 2003b; Yumul,
2007). The proposed zonation is consistent with the spatial
and temporal relationships among these complexes, which
are based on the available geological data (Fig. 3). From
east to west, belt 1 is composed of the eastern Philippine
Late Cretaceous ophiolite complexes with metamorphic
soles that served as the trailing edge of the proto-Philippine
Sea plate (e.g., Andal et al., 2005b). Belt 2 corresponds to
the Early to Late Cretaceous Cordilleran suites with
mlanges found along the entire length of the central Philippines
which formed part of the leading edge of the protoPhilippine Sea plate (Encarnacion, 2004; Dimalanta et al.,

Ophiolites and ophiolitic rocks found in different parts of the Philippine archi
pelago have been grouped according to: A. their
geographic distribution (Balce et al., 1976). The ophiolites as grouped are foun
d in: 1
Sierra Madre Range, 2
3 Eastern Bicol-Eastern Mindanao, 4
Antique, 5 southern Palawan, 6
a and 7
north-central Mindanao. B.
ages and geochemical signatures (Tamayo et al., 2004). These are Belt I
us sequences; II Eocene complexes with subduction
signatures; III
collision-related; IV
young ophiolites west of the suture zone;
and C. ages and possible lithospheric sources
of these complexes (Yumul et al., 2003b; Yumul, 2007). Belt 1 corresponds to Lat
e Cretaceous ophiolite complexes with metamorphic
soles whereas Belt 2 corresponds to the Early to Late Cretaceous ophiolites with
mlanges; Belt 3 includes Cretaceous to Oligocene
ophiolites along the collision zone and Belt 4 is made up of Sundaland-Eurasian
margin-derived ophiolites. See text for details.

Tectonic setting of the Philippines

2006). This portion of the Philippines subsequently interacted
with the Sundaland-Eurasian margin during the northwestward
translation of the Philippines from the south
(Pubellier et al., 2003a). Belt 3 consists of the Cretaceous to
Oligocene ophiolites and ophiolitic complexes that were
emplaced along the collision zone between the proto-Philippine
Sea plate and the Sundaland-Eurasian margin (Rangin et al., 1985; Jumawan et al., 1998). Belt 4 corresponds
to that of Tamayo (2001), and includes the Sundaland-Eurasian
margin-derived ophiolites emplaced in the Palawan
and Zamboanga-Sulu regions (Tamayo et al., 2000; Yumul
et al., 2004). The majority of these upper mantle-crust
sequences have supra-subduction zone geochemical signatures
with a minority having mid-oceanic ridge signatures
(Yumul et al., 1997; Dimalanta et al., 2006). Most of these
were generated in fast spreading centers (Yumul, 2003b). A
minority were formed in intermediate spreading centers.
Some of the mechanisms responsible for the emplacement
of the Philippine ophiolites include onramping, subduction
accretion, and strike-slip faulting (Karig, 1983; Rangin et
al., 1985; Mitchell et al., 1986; Yumul, 2007).
Observed gravity anomalies in the Philippines are typical
of arc-trench systems in which island arcs are associated
with large positive anomalies. Arcuate, low gravity anomalies
coincide with the major deep-sea trenches that surround
the Philippine Archipelago (Hayes and Lewis, 1984).
Mantle tomographic data have confirmed the presence of,
and provided constraints on the location and depth of subducted slabs along these trenches (Rangin et al., 1999a).
Subducted slabs in the East Luzon Trough, Philippine
Trench, Sulu Trench, and Manila Trench are low attenuation
features (Besana et al., 2001). The slabs related to the
Manila and Philippine Trenches are estimated at 230 and
290 kilometer depths, respectively (Besana et al., 1997).
The presence of ancient subduction zones is also suggested
by offshore satellite bathymetry and gravity data. A relatively
deep (~2000 meters), NE-SW trending narrow basin
with a low gravity anomaly is observed between Central
Visayas and Mindanao, in the area now occupied by the
Bohol Sea. This feature is believed to represent an ancient
trench southeast of Bohol (Yumul et al., 2000). Oceanic
bathymetric highs are also clearly defined by free-air gravity
anomalies. The Scarborough Seamount, Cagayan de
Sulu Ridge, and Benham Plateau are distinctly marked on
the marine gravity map by high gravity anomalies. In addition,
the Reed Bank and Palawan microcontinental block
are characterized by similar, large amplitude gravity anomalies.
The ~1200 kilometer-long Philippine Fault Zone can
also be traced on gravity and magnetic anomaly maps
(Japan International Cooperation Agency
Metal Mining
Agency of Japan, 1990). The linearity of gravity contours
(30 100 mGal) and the NW-SE orientation of magnetic
anomalies, ranging from 39000 39400 gammas, serve to
define the Philippine Fault Zone in Leyte Island. The East

Luzon Transform Fault, connects the East Luzon Trough

and Philippine Trench (Fig. 1) and is seen on seismic
tomographic images as an east-west trending zone of high
attenuation values (Besana et al., 1997). Bautista et al.
(2001) have also pointed out a linear E-W trending zone
of seismicity that connects the East Luzon Trough to the
northern end of the Philippine Trench. This feature is
seen as a linear gravity low on the marine gravity anomaly
Aside from delineating major tectonic features and geologic
structures, available gravity data have also been used
to estimate the thickness of the crust. Gravity and seismic
data indicate that island arcs in the Western Pacific region
are much thicker than previously envisioned (Dimalanta et
al., 2002). The crustal thickness of these island arcs have
been estimated to range from ~20 to 35 kilometers (Dimalanta
et al., 2002 and references therein). In the Philippines,
the paucity of seismic refraction or OBS data has made an
estimation of crustal thickness rather difficult. Recently,
available geophysical (seismic refraction, seismicity, and
gravity) and geochemical data (i.e., Plank-Langmuir systematics,
and rare earth element ratios) were integrated and
synthesized to come up with an estimate of the crustal thickness
beneath the Philippine island arc. Results obtained show
that the Philippines is generally characterized by crustal
thicknesses varying from ~17 to 30 kilometers. The central
portion of Luzon Island and the Bicol-Masbate-Panay-Central
Mindanao area are interpreted to be made up of thickened
crust (Fig. 2). More voluminous magmatism coupled
with ophiolite accretion may account for the thickened crust
in this region (Dimalanta and Yumul, 2004; 2006).
Data obtained from the global positioning system networks
within the Southeast Asian region have provided
measurements of the convergence rate between the SundalandEurasian margin and the Philippine Sea plate. On the
western side of the Philippine archipelago, the Sunda block
is found to be moving with respect to Eurasia from 101
mm/year in the direction S78E along its northern margin
and ~62 mm/year towards S61E along its southern margin
(Kreemer et al., 2003). East of the archipelago, the
northwest-drifting Philippine Sea plate is found to be moving
approximately 7 cm/year in the region northeast of
Luzon and around 9 cm/year southeast of Mindanao. These
values were obtained using the HS2 NUVEL-1 model
(Bautista et al., 2001) (Fig. 2). The GPS measurements and
geological observations allowed the subduction on either
side of the Philippine Mobile Belt to be quantified. On the
eastern side of the Philippines, the rate of subduction along
the Philippine Trench is observed to vary from north to
south. Subduction takes place at 54 mm/year near 13N and
32 mm/year near 7N. On the western side of the archipel

Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., Carla B. Dimalanta, Victor B. Maglambayan, and Edanjarlo

J. Marquez
ago, subduction along the Manila Trench has been estimated
to vary from ~90-100 mm/year to 50 mm/year northwest of
Mindoro (Rangin et al., 1999b) (Fig. 2 inset).
a. Early Miocene to Pliocene east- and west-dipping subduction
zones surround the Philippine archipelago. It is
along these trenches that the South China Sea plate, Sulu
Sea plate, Celebes Sea plate, and West Philippine Sea plate
are being consumed.
b. There are several oceanic bathymetric highs which are
currently impinging on the Philippines
the NW Luzon
oceanic bathymetric high, the Scarborough seamount, the
Palawan microcontinental block, the Zamboanga-Sulu Peninsula,
the Benham Plateau, and a small ridge chain east of
c. The Philippine left-lateral strike-slip Fault Zone cuts
the entire Philippine archipelago from north to south. Several
major faults are linked to the evolution of the Philippine
Fault Zone such as the Legaspi Lineament, Sibuyan
Sea Fault, and the Sindangan-Cotabato-Daguma Lineament.
Both ends of the Philippine Fault Zone are characterized by
horse-tail structures consistent with active faulting.
d. Several arc systems have been formed as a result of
subduction along the trench systems surrounding the archipelago.
Interest in these volcanic arcs is attributed to the
search for mineral deposits, tapping of geothermal energy
and the mitigation of associated natural hazards.
e. Ophiolites and ophiolitic complexes are integral features
found in various regions of the Philippine archipelago.
Currently available data allow these complexes to be grouped
according to age, geochemical signatures, and possible
lithospheric sources. Most of these oceanic lithospheric
fragments are subduction-related and formed in fast-spreading
marginal basins.
f. Geophysical data (i.e., gravity, seismic tomography,
seismicity, and magnetic) serve to delineate major tectonic
features and geologic structures such as trenches and faults.
The information presented here helps us to recognize
important features developed over the course of the evolution
of the Philippine island arc system. More importantly,
the implication of this knowledge allows us to better understand
and recognize processes responsible for mineralization,
energy source, and natural hazards. The information
presented here may be useful in studies of other island arc
settings with similar geologic features.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Most of the information presented here
was generated from the various projects and programs involving different
branches of the geosciences. Financial and logistic support
extended by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),
DOST-Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development,
University of the Philippines
National Institute of Geological
Sciences, National Academy of Science and Technology, National
Research Council of the Philippines, DOST-Philippine Council for

Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development, Commission

on Higher Education and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau
central and regional offices are acknowledged. Support from the
Embassy of the Republic of France, Japan Society for the Promotion
of Science, DUO-France Program, University of Tokyo, University of
Hong Kong, University of Bretagne Occidentale, University of Paul
Sabatier, Kumamoto University and Okayama University are appreciated.
Colleagues and students at the UP-NIGS and other institutions
are thanked for their unselfish contributions. Comments by Dr. J.I. Lee
and an anonymous reviewer improved the presentation of this paper.
We thank Professor Moonsup Cho for his encouragement to write this
paper. This is UP-NIGS contribution number 2008-01.
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Manuscript received June 27, 2005
Manuscript accepted February 6, 2008