Foreign travel advice

Philippines

Terrorism

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, including in the capital Manila and in places visited by foreigners, such as airports, shopping malls, public transport, including the metro system and places of worship. Attacks have been carried out using improvised explosive devices and small arms.

Explosions occurred in the Quiapo area of Manila on 28 April and 6 May 2017, resulting in fatalities. The motive for these attacks remains unclear.

On 28 November 2016, an improvised explosive device was found close to the US embassy in Manila. The device was made safe by police. Explosions at a boxing match in Hilongos, Leyte (Visayas) injured over 30 people on 28 December 2016.

There are several terrorist groups operating in the Philippines that continue to pose a threat. These groups include: New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and other associated groups. Elements within the two main insurgent groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), continue to pose a security threat. A splinter group of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has also been responsible for attacks. Some groups have pledged allegiance to Daesh (formally referred to as ISIL) and are likely to regard westerners as legitimate targets.

Militant groups also operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines. Armed clashes between security forces and militant groups can occur at any time without warning. Previous clashes has resulted in tourists being injured. Before travelling to rural areas, you should research the area thoroughly.

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

Civilian targets in Mindanao have been attacked and there remains a heightened threat of attacks throughout the Mindanao island group. A bomb attack on a market in Davao City killed more than a dozen people on 2 September 2016. An explosion in Aleosan, North Cotabato injured 6 people on 29 December 2016.

Terrorist groups have threatened to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, particularly those operating from Mindanao. You should avoid using public transport throughout Mindanao.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Kidnapping

Kidnapping could occur anywhere. There’s been an increase in kidnapping of foreign nationals since late 2015, with a number of new cases involving terrorist groups. Some hostages, including foreign nationals, have been murdered. It’s likely that terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals in the region.

This threat extends throughout the Philippines, both on land and at sea, but is particularly acute in the southern Philippines. This includes Mindanao, the Sulu archipelago, Palawan and central Visayas region, including Siquijor and Dumaguete, and extends to coastal resorts, dive sites, and offshore areas in the nearby waters of the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea.

Foreigners have been targeted in rural, urban and coastal areas, on private boats, in marinas and resorts. The threat of kidnapping isn’t confined to terrorist strongholds, and kidnaps may be opportunistic. Kidnap groups have sought to expand their reach including by working with affiliates to abduct foreign nationals from one area of the Philippines before transporting the victims to another.

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 island 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 national 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 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. This was in response to information that a group was planning to conduct kidnappings in the area.

Commercial shipping companies have been advised to adopt 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 Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) advise all ships to re-route from the area where possible.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.