A repetitive DNA element cloned from Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae was used to assess the population structure and genetic diversity of 98 strains of X. oryzae pv. oryzae collected between 1972 and 1988 from the Philippine Islands. Genomic DNA from X. oryzae pv. oryzae was digested with EcoRI and analyzed for restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) with repetitive DNA element as a probe. Twenty-seven RFLP types were identified; there was no overlap of RFLP types among the six races from the Philippines. Most variability (20 RFLP types) was found in strains of races 1, 2, and 3, which were isolated from tropical lowland areas. Four RFLP types (all race 5) were found among strains isolated from cultivars grown in the temperate highlands. The genetic diversity of the total population of X. oryzae pv. oryzae was 0.93, of which 42% was due to genetic differentiation between races. The genetic diversities of strains collected in 1972 to 1976, 1977 to 1981, and 1982 to 1986, were 0.89, 0.90, and 0.92, respectively, suggesting a consistently high level of variability in the pathogen population over the past 15 years. Cluster analysis based on RFLP banding patterns showed five groupings at 85% similarity. The majority of strains from a given race were contained within one cluster, except for race 3 strains, which were distributed in three of the five clusters.