Foreign travel advice

Philippines

Important COVID-19 Travel

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.

Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to travel to the UK from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional COVID-19 tests. For those travelling from a country on the banned travel list you will be required to quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you are legally permitted to travel abroad, check our advice on your country of destination. Some other countries have closed borders, and may further restrict movement or bring in new rules including testing requirements with little warning.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the Philippines. You should remain vigilant at all times and report anything suspicious to the local authorities

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Terrorist groups have the intent and capability to carry out attacks anywhere in the country including in the capital Manila and in places visited by foreigners, such as shopping malls, entertainment establishments, public transport (including airports and the metro system) and places of worship. Attacks have been carried out using small arms and improvised explosive devices, including both vehicle and personnel borne.

Terrorist activity continues to pose a threat from groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), New People’s Army (NPA and other associated groups. Some groups have pledged allegiance to Daesh (formally referred to as ISIL) and are likely to regard westerners as legitimate targets.

Recent notable incidents include:

  • on 24 August 2020, dual explosions in Jolo, Sulu resulting in a number of deaths and injuries
  • on 28 June 2019, a dual suicide attack on a military base in Indanan in Sulu Province killed 3 civilians and 3 military personnel as well as the 2 attackers. A further 22 people were injured
  • on 27 January 2019, 27 people were killed and many more injured as a result of bomb attacks at a Roman Catholic cathedral on Jolo Island in Sulu Province
  • on 31 December 2018, an IED exploded at the entrance to the South Seas shopping mall in Cotabato City killing 2 people and injuring many more

Armed clashes between security forces and militant groups can occur at any time without warning in rural areas. Incidents in July 2019 resulted in at least 15 deaths in Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. Previous clashes have resulted in bystanders being injured. Before travelling to rural areas, you should research the area thoroughly.

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.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnap in the Philippines. Foreign nationals have been targeted by both criminal and terrorist groups.

This threat extends throughout the Philippines, and foreigners have been targeted in rural, urban and coastal areas, on private boats, 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.

The threat is particularly acute in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and offshore areas in the nearby waters of the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea. A British national and a dual Filipino-British national were kidnapped on 4 October 2019 from a resort in Zamboanga, Western Mindanao. They were successfully rescued on 25 November 2019 by the Philippines Armed Forces. However, some hostages, including foreign nationals, have been murdered. A Dutch national was killed on 31 May 2019 after being held for 7 years. It’s likely that terrorist groups continue to plan kidnap operations against western nationals.

British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

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 builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Commercial shipping companies have been advised to adopt heightened vigilance when navigating the Sulu and Celebes Seas. 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, and terrorist groups have threatened to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, particularly those operating from Mindanao.