Foreign travel advice

Philippines

Summary

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to western and parts of central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian, due to the threat of terrorism. See Terrorism

Clashes are underway between government forces and militants in Marawi City, Mindanao. If you’re in Marawi City you should remain indoors, monitor media reporting, and follow the advice of the Philippine authorities.

On May 23 2017, President Duterte declared martial law for the whole of Mindanao for 60 days “in order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety”. The implications of martial law aren’t yet clear, but government officials have said measures will include the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the imposition of curfews and establishment of checkpoints. Some airlines servicing Mindanao are offering pre-booked customers alternative options to taking their scheduled flight, in light of this announcement. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to advise against all travel to western and parts of central Mindanao including Marawi City; and against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao.

If you don’t have essential reason to travel to the remainder of Mindanao, you should consider the implications of martial law and consider reviewing your plans whilst it is in place.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines. Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at any time and anywhere in the country. Attacks could happen anywhere, including in places visited by foreigners, like airports, shopping malls, public transport and places of worship. You should remain vigilant at all times and report anything suspicious to the local authorities.

There has been an increase in kidnapping of foreign nationals, including attacks targeting foreigners and tourists since late 2015. Multiple attacks occurred in November 2016. Terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals in the Philippines. This threat extends throughout the Philippines, both on land and at sea, but is particularly acute in the southern Philippines (Mindanao, southern Palawan and central Visayas, including Siquijor and Dumaguete).

In May 2017, the Philippines authorities reported that they had received unsubstantiated but credible information that the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf may be about to conduct kidnaps in the Sulu Sea, including around the islands of the Sulu archipelago (Philippines) and the seas/islands off the east coast of Sabah (Malaysia). Any vessels sailing in the area could be targeted. You should carefully consider travel plans and be especially vigilant at this time.

On 9 May 2017, the US Embassy in Manila advised its citizens it had received “credible information that terrorist groups may be planning to conduct kidnapping operations targeting foreign nationals in the areas of Palawan Province, Philippines, to include Puerto Princesa City, and the areas surrounding Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park”. You should carefully consider travel plans, and exercise heightened vigilance in these areas.

On 9 April 2017, the US Embassy in Manila advised US citizens that it had received “unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces”. You should be especially vigilant in these areas.

On 11 and 12 April 2017, Philippine authorities clashed with heavily armed individuals in Inabanga, Bohol, resulting in fatalities. If you’re in or planning to travel to Bohol, be especially vigilant and review your personal security plans. Monitor media reporting and follow the advice of the local authorities

Commercial shipping companies have been advised to adopt a heightened vigilance when navigating the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Most maritime incidents occur in the Sulu Sea in the area between Mindanao, the Sulu archipelago, Palawan and Sabah (Malaysia). The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) advise all ships to re-route from the area where possible.

There is a high incidence of street crime and robbery throughout the Philippines. You should take sensible precautions.

The Philippines government has declared a ‘state of national emergency on account of lawless violence’. Expect heightened security measures including in airports and other major transport hubs. You should co-operate with the Philippine authorities and allow extra time to pass through security.

The Philippine Bureau of Immigration has warned foreigners not to participate in political rallies. Any foreign nationals taking part in these events could be subject to arrest and/or deportation.

Violating local laws may result in a jail sentence, served in a local prison. Sentences are severe. The judicial system can result in long-term detention until a court hearing takes place. Detention facilities are far below UK standards. Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for importing and using illegal drugs are particularly severe.

Around 20 typhoons hit the Philippines each year. Most typhoons occur from June to December. There may be flooding and landslides. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms and follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders. See Natural disasters

UK health authorities have classified the Philippines as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Around 154,000 British nationals visited the Philippines in 2015. Most visits are trouble-free.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.