Philippines Travel Advice

Security travel advice for Philippines

How safe is the Philippines?

Threat level: Medium-High
The current travel safety advice for the Philippines is to remain vigilant, especially when using transport services and visiting tourist attractions in the country.

The Philippines is currently at its highest level of threat from terrorism throughout the country. Terrorist groups such as The New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), continue to plan attacks. These groups have the capabilities and the motivation to carry out attacks at anytime and anywhere in the Philippines. Attacks are most likely to be indiscriminate, including places that are often visited by foreign travellers like airports, hotels, tourist coaches and other tourist attractions in the country.

There’s a particular threat in the southern Philippines of getting kidnapped by terrorist groups and other criminals alike. Areas in which kidnapping cases often occur include the island of Mindanao, as well as the Sulu archipelago, scuba diving sites, and other tourist activity hotspots. Foreign tourists have been targeted in both rural and urban areas. There are also isolated cases of kidnappings occurring on private boats and in marinas.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on the Philippine military and police. This includes military bases and police checkpoints.

The Philippines has a severe ongoing drugs problem that affects the whole country. Nearly six thousand people have been killed in the second half of 2016 alone. President Rodrigo Duterte has promised a crackdown on the war on drugs and a stricter approach to how dealers and users are prosecuted.

Sunday the 27th of January 2019, saw a double bombing at the Jolo Catholic cathedral in the Mindanao region. 20 people were killed in the incident and 102 people were wounded. The first explosive device went off inside the cathedral, and the second targeted nearby soldiers who rushed to help the victims of the first explosion. The Mindanao region has been plagued with violence between Muslims and Christians for decades, yet no terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility.

On the 31st of December 2018, a bomb exploded outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao. The blast killed two and injured 23 people. A second device was also discovered in the Mall, but this device failed to detonate.

On the 31st of July 2018, a car bomb exploded in Lamitan in a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment, killing 10 people.

On the 27th of February 2017, a German national, Jurgen Gustav Kantner, is believed to have been executed on camera by the Islamic state operating in the Philippines. Authorities are still confirming whether or not the video is legitimate.

Canadian Journalist, John Bramwell Ridsdel, was kidnapped by Islamic state operating in the Philippines on September 21, 2015, in a raid on Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort, on Samal Island in the south of the Philippines. After the terrorists overthrew the hotel security guards, they abducted Mr. Ridsdel from the resort. He was later executed on the 25th of April 2016, after his ransom was not paid.

In September 2016, an improvised explosive device detonated outside of the Marco Polo hotel in the Philippines southern city of Davao. 14 people were killed and many others wounded. Mr Duterte has declared a "state of lawlessness" following this particular incident, which means the military will be allowed to patrol the city assisting the local police.

In 2014, a bus bombing occurred in Bukidnon located in the Northern Mindanao region; the bomb hit a public bus inside the main front entrance of Central Mindanao University. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were the number one suspects of the attack, but Philippine authorities say that they never took responsibility for it.

There is a high rate of serious street crime and robbery in all areas of the Philippines. You should take the right precautions in order to ensure that you have a trouble-free trip. It is highly advisable that when you arrive in the Philippines, you arrange to be met at the airport or use your hotels transfer service. You should be wary of what taxis you use and ensure that you are confident they are a legitimate taxi firm. You can find out this information either online or through your hotel. There have been multiple cases in recent years of taxi drivers and their partners (also known as fixers in the Philippines) mugging and assaulting their unsuspecting passengers.

Avoid displaying money or other valuables. Also be cautious of strangers offering drinks both at day and night. They may be spiked; this is a common kidnap tactic used in the Philippines.

The Philippines's International Relations

The Philippines' international relationships are mostly ties to Southeast Asian neighbours, United States, and the Middle East. Relations with other neighbouring Asian nations have been present in recent history. Japan has built a strong relation with the Philippines, which has been due to active support in regards to aid, it has now closed ties with the country. Relations with China have recently been economically strengthened.

Travelling around the Philippines

When travelling outside of the main cities in the Philippines, you should seek advice from local contacts or online and always let a friend or relative know where you plan to travel next. The security risk of travelling by public transport has been rated high and there has been a number of robberies and muggings.

Avoid travel to the following places at all costs, as suggested by the Filipino authorities: Jolo, Bongao, Isabela, Ipil, Pagadian, Tubod, Marawi Mindanao, Kidapawan, Sharif Aguak, Isulan, Koronadal and Alabel.

Earthquakes in the Philippines

The Philippines regularly suffers large earthquakes of a magnitude of 5-7, the worse in recent history was the 2013 Bohol earthquake, that killed an estimated 220 people and injured a 1000 or so people. The worse recorded earthquake in the Philippines was the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake that claimed an estimated 5,000-7,000, injuring almost 10,000 people. This was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake, one of the largest the Philippines has seen.

The Philippines are prone volcanic activity, although all volcanic risks are closely monitored.

Extreme weather in the Philippines

The Philippines is located within the Pacific typhoon belt, and as such, the Philippines sees an average of 20 typhoons each year, with around a quarter of these being classed as destructive.

The typhoon season in the Philippines is between June and November, but typhoons can occur outside of the typhoon season.

Typhoon are very disruptive to daily life, affecting road conditions and affecting air traffic. Obviously, the resulting flooding can have wider effects as can landslides caused by heavy rains.

Advice to travellers is to monitor local news and check the weather forecast prior and during your visit.

Emergency services in the Philippines:

General emergency: 117

The Philippines Overview

Capital: Manila
Official languages: Filipino and English
Religion: Christianity and Islam
Currency: Filipino Peso
Time now in Manila:

Consular information for the Philippines

U.S. Embassy Dhaka
1201 Roxas Blvd,
Telephone: +63 2 301 2000

British Embassy Manila
120 Upper McKinley Rd,
Telephone: +63 2 858 22009

Visa requirements for the Philippines

Most tourists can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days but check with your nearest Philippine Embassy before travel. You can also get a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy before you travel, which will allow up to a 59-day stay.

Healthcare and Immunisations

It is advised that visitors to Philippines are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations. Your doctor should be able to give you more information.

Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Philippines, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.

Food and waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever, the water contact disease leptospirosis has been known and dengue fever and malaria are high risks in some locations.

It is highly recommended full travel and medical insurance is checked for coverage prior to travel, as the medical facilities in the country can vary. Personal hygiene must be paramount, the local water supply avoided and bottled water inspected prior to consumption.

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      The information contained in this Travel Advice for the Philippines is provided for information only. Whilst care is taken to ensure that this country brief is as up-to-date and accurate as possible, it is provided on an "as is" basis without any representation or endorsement made and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. Intelligent Protection International Limited does not assume responsibility and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.