The basement complexes of the Philippine archipelago include at least 20 ophiolites and ophiolitic complexes. These complexes are characterised by volcanic sequences displaying geochemical compositions similar to those observed in MORB, transitional MORB-island arc tholeiites and arc volcanic rocks originating from modern Pacific-type oceans, back-arc basins and island arcs. Ocean island basalt-like rocks are rarely encountered in the volcanic sequences. The gabbros from the ophiolites contain clinopyroxenes and plagioclases showing a wide range of XMg and An values, respectively. Some of these gabbros exhibit mineral chemistries suggesting their derivation from basaltic liquids formed from mantle sources that underwent either high degrees of partial melting or several partial melting episodes. Moreover, some of the gabbros display a crystallization sequence where orthopyroxene and clinopyroxene appeared before plagioclase. The major element compositions of coexisting orthopyroxenes and olivines from the mantle peridotites are consistent with low to high degrees of partial melting. Accessory spinels in these peridotites display a wide range of XCr values as well with some of them above the empirical upper limit of 0.6 often observed in most modern mid-oceanic ridge (MOR) mantle rocks. Co-existing olivines and spinels from the peridotites also exhibit compositions suggesting that they lastly equilibrated under oxidizing mantle conditions.
The juxtaposition of volcanic rocks showing affinities with modern MOR and island arc environments suggests that most of the volcanic sequences in Philippine ophiolites formed in subduction-related geodynamic settings. Similarly, their associated gabbros and peridotites display mineralogical characteristics and mineral chemistries consistent with their derivation from modern supra-subduction zone-like environments. Alternatively, these rocks could have, in part, evolved in a supra-subduction zone even though they originated from a MOR-like setting.
A simplified scenario regarding the early geodynamic evolution of the Philippines is proposed on the basis of the geochemical signatures of the ophiolites, their ages of formation and the ages and origins of the oceanic basins actually bounding the archipelago, including basins presumed to be now totally consumed. This scenario envisages the early development of the archipelago to be largely dominated by the opening and closing of oceanic basins. Fragments of these basins provided the substratum on top of which the Cretaceous to Recent volcanic arcs of the Philippines were emplaced.