Multiple ophiolite generation preserved in the northern Philippines and the growth of an island arc complex
Although all oceanic arcs grow through the addition of subduction-generated magmas, the geology of the northern Philippines demonstrates that a major contribution to arc crustal growth can come from repeated, episodic, intra-arc, back-arc, and/or fore-arc oceanic crust generation with subsequent preservation of the basic-ultrabasic units in the arc complex. At least five episodes of oceanic crust generation are represented in the northern Philippines by preserved ophiolitic sequences and recent intra-arc seafloor spreading. Each episode is distinct in age as confirmed by modern dating techniques, with the ages ranging from pre(?)-Jurassic to ∼Quaternary. Although the Philippines is widely regarded as an amalgamation of allochthonous terranes, a review of the available data shows that there is currently no compelling evidence that these ophiolites are of exotic origin and that they have been tectonically accreted to the Philippine arc complex. Rather, the evidence suggests that most—and possibly all—of the ophiolites were generated as back-arc, fore-arc, or intra-arc crust within the Philippine arc complex. Hence, there is a close spatial association of several ophiolitic terranes of diverse ages spanning ∼150 Myr that formed as part of the arc complex. Such an association may have arisen from episodic generation of oceanic crust during periods of local extension in a suprasubduction zone setting, which has experienced changing and possibly overlapping subduction from the east and west sides (in the current reference frame). Disruption of the ophiolitic basement terranes has been, and continues to be, effected primarily by wrench faulting. This style of arc growth has implications for the paleotectonic interpretation of ancient ophiolite-arc terranes in continents and the petrologic evolution of island arcs.