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DFAT advice for Philippines

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When travelling to Philippines, you should always get travel insurance in case the worst happens. To help you ensure you travel safely, we have included the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for Philippines.

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 10 October 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and Security (US Embassy issued an alert to US citizens regarding the arrest of suspects in a bombing plot planned for targets in metro Manila). We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. We continue to advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao. We continue to advise you to exercise a high degree of caution overall in the Philippines.

Philippines overall

Eastern Mindanao

Central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Violent crime is a significant problem in the Philippines. See the Safety and security section.
  • Terrorist attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. You should avoid places known to be terrorist targets. See the Safety and security section.
  • On 9 October 2014, the US Embassy issued an alert noting that, according to media reports, police had arrested suspects involved in a bombing plot planned for targets in metro Manila. The plot was exposed on October 7 following the arrest in Quezon City of three men known to have links to terrorist organizations.
  • There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines. The threat is highest in the southern Philippines, including coastal and island tourist resorts and dive sites, including in remote locations in the Sulu Sea and along the Zamboanga Peninsula. Groups based in the south are capable of carrying out kidnappings and launching attacks in other parts of the Philippines, including areas surrounding the Sulu Sea such as Palawan, and other locations frequented by tourists.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur) due to the very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack.
  • We strongly advise you not travel to central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula, Zamboanga del Norte and Sulu Archipelago, due to the very high threat of kidnapping, terrorist attack, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups.
  • The typhoon season normally runs from late May to early December. This is also the rainy season when tropical storms, flooding and landslides may occur.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers .
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Map of Philippines ( This map is presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature.  Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy. )

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines for the most up-to-date information.

The Philippine Government strongly enforces immigration and entry laws. You should ensure you have proper and valid visas and remain aware of your visa status while in the Philippines. Immigration authorities may require travellers to show proof of an onward or return ticket. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into the Philippines. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

The Philippines allows entry for tourism and business purposes without a visa for visits of less than 30 days. Longer visits require a visa. Holders of an APEC business travel card can enter the Philippines for up to 59 days. Students require a visa to attend educational institutions in the Philippines. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the Philippines for information on your eligibility.

Australians have been detained for having improper visas or violating immigration laws. Offenders can expect jail sentences, fines, and/or deportation and may also be prohibited from entering the Philippines in the future. If you have any concerns about the status of your Philippine visa or if you want to extend your visa, you should refer to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration website .

A terminal fee of 550 pesos or the $US equivalent is payable in cash at the airport on departure from the Philippines.

Children under 15 years of age who are unaccompanied by a parent or coming to meet a parent or parents in the Philippines must present a Waiver of Exclusion Ground (WEG).

Safety and security

Terrorism

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack. Terrorist attacks, including bombings, are possible anytime, anywhere in the Philippines, including in Manila. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners such as airports, hotels, shopping malls, public transport and places of worship. Attacks could occur in the lead up to and following religious celebrations.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible targets include places frequented by foreigners such as shopping malls (including mega malls), markets, embassies, expatriate housing complexes, hostels, guest houses, clubs, hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, bars, pubs, cinemas, convention centres, places of worship, public transport including buses and bus terminals, ferries and trains, schools, universities, tourist areas, festivals, outdoor recreation and major sporting events. Infrastructure associated with the Philippines Government such as airports, airfields, sea ports, railways, roads, military facilities, oil depots, power and telecommunications facilities and public buildings are also potential terrorist targets.

On 9 October 2014, the US Embassy issued an alert noting that, according to media reports, police had arrested suspects involved in a bombing plot planned for targets in metro Manila. The plot was exposed on October 7 following the arrest in Quezon City of three men known to have links to terrorist organizations.

Kidnapping: There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines. The threat is highest in the southern Philippines, including coastal and island tourist resorts and dive sites, including in remote locations in the Sulu Sea and along the Zamboanga Peninsula. Groups based in the south are capable of carrying out kidnappings and launching attacks in other parts of the Philippines, including areas surrounding the Sulu Sea such as Palawan, and other locations frequented by tourists.

Two German nationals were kidnapped from their yacht in the south Sulu Sea, near Palawan Island, in late April 2014. This underscores the ongoing threat of kidnapping in tourist locations in the Philippines.

The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Eastern Mindanao: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur) due to very high levels of violent crime and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Australians travelling in these areas should ensure that they have appropriate personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Central and western Mindanao, including the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago: We strongly advise you not to travel to central and western Mindanao (including the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, Misamis Occidental, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and surrounding waters) due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups. If you are in central and western Mindanao, you should leave immediately.
Clashes between militants and the security forces in Zamboanga City in 2013 caused a large number of deaths and widespread destruction. Other attacks have occurred in urban areas such as Cotabato City and Cagayan de Oro.

Recent armed clashes, bombings and kidnappings in Zamboanga demonstrate a heightened threat environment in that area. Possible targets include locations where people gather, which may include hotels, shopping centres, restaurants and educational and government facilities in and around Zamboanga City. Armed clashes between Philippine security forces and insurgent groups could occur without warning, particularly in central or western Mindanao. Armed clashes between rival clans and other armed groups occur frequently in central and western Mindanao, often resulting in multiple deaths and injuries and the displacement of local populations. Terrorist attacks are frequent in central and western Mindanao.

The threat of kidnapping is higher in the southern Philippines, particularly in central and western Mindanao, where terrorists and kidnap-for-ransom gangs targeting foreigners can operate across a wide area. If you are in central or western Mindanao, you are strongly advised to leave immediately.

Numerous locals and foreigners have been kidnapped in central and western Mindanao, including in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu Archipelago. In December 2011, an Australian citizen was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay. Other recent kidnappings in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Sulu Archipelago have involved Philippine nationals and citizens of European countries, the United States, China, Korea, Malaysia, India and Japan, among others. Kidnap victims are sometimes held in captivity for long periods of time before being released. Others have been killed by their captors.

If, despite our very strong advice against travel, you decide to visit central or western Mindanao, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers .

Civil unrest/political tension

On 1 September 2014, the authorities disrupted a plot to detonate an explosive device at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. A number of suspects were arrested.

Militant groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in attacks on targets primarily associated with the security forces. Armed clashes between Philippine authorities and communist rebels regularly take place in many rural areas of the Philippines. Several major attacks have occurred in Mindanao in 2014.

Due to the risk of violent insurgent attack that exists in rural areas across the Philippines, you should exercise caution when travelling and avoid, where possible, security forces facilities and deployments.

You should avoid any large gatherings, demonstrations, protests, rallies or other public and political events as they may turn violent. You should monitor the media for information about any protests or political rallies and follow the advice of authorities.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high level of serious crime. Violent crime remains a significant problem in the Philippines. Criminal gangs that drug and rob or assault unsuspecting tourists are active in Manila, including the Makati central business district, and in provincial resort towns.

Random acts of violence occur frequently in the Philippines. In May 2012, a grenade exploded in Iligan City resulting in two deaths and 24 people injured. In April 2012, two explosions occurred in tourist areas of the island of Palawan, one in Puerto Princessa and one in El Nido, causing a number of injuries. In September 2010, a grenade was thrown into a large gathering of university students in Manila, seriously injuring a number of people. Other grenade attacks, the result of domestic grievances, have occurred in parts of Metro Manila frequented by foreigners.

As in many other big cities, street crime is of concern particularly in crowded shopping malls and other public places. Pickpocketing, bag snatching and a range of scams, including those involving credit cards and automated teller machines, are common.

Gun ownership is widespread and poorly regulated, contributing to a higher incidence of violent crime. Gunfights between police and criminals are common, including in parts of Manila frequented by foreigners. These incidents often result in multiple deaths and injuries, sometimes including innocent bystanders. If you witness a confrontation between police and criminals, you should leave the area immediately.

Taxis sourced from hotels are more reliable than those hailed on the street.

Avoid travel on public buses, light rail and jeepneys where possible as opportunistic crime may occur. Armed hold-ups have occurred and in some cases have led to fatalities.

Insurgent groups operate in rural areas throughout the Philippines and are involved in violent criminal activities. Extortion activities involving violence occur regularly and are often aimed at business interests, including mining projects. In October 2007, a large group of armed men attacked an Australian-controlled mining operation in Camarines Norte, about 200km south-east of Manila. Valuables were seized and property destroyed. Similar attacks have occurred around the Australian-controlled Tampakan mine site in South Cotabato, Mindanao.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

A significant number of casualties and widespread damage occurred when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Visayas region of the Philippines on 8 November 2013. Essential services are being restored in affected areas. Before visiting these areas you should check with your tour operator or travel agent for information on any continuing disruptions.

Sea travel in the Philippines is hazardous. You should not travel on ferries unless no other means of travel are available. Ferries are often overloaded, lack necessary lifesaving equipment and are not adequately maintained. Storms can develop quickly. More than 900 people were rescued and there were a number of fatalities when a ferry sank while travelling from General Santos City to Iloilo in September 2009. In June 2008, a ferry travelling between Manila and Cebu capsized during a typhoon. Around 800 passengers and crew died. For further information, please refer to our Travelling by boat page

Standards maintained by search and rescue services, transport services and tour operators, including adventure activities such as scuba diving, may not be comparable to those in Australia. Check operators' credentials and safety equipment beforehand and ensure your travel insurance policy covers your planned activities. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if the locals don't.

Piracy occurs in the coastal areas of the Philippines. For more information about piracy, see our piracy bulletin . The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website .

For information on road safety, see our page on road travel .

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the Philippines.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

The European Union has imposed an operating ban on all carriers certified by Philippines regulatory authorities, with the exception of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air. The European Union (EU) website has a list of airlines that are subject to operating bans or restrictions within the EU.

Laws

When you are in the Philippines, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Judicial process in the Philippines can be lengthy, with some court cases taking years to complete. During this time authorities may place restrictions on international travel. Australians who are accused of crimes can find themselves in financial and other difficulties while their case is ongoing and may not be able to depart the Philippines until the process has been concluded.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter .

Penalties for drug offences are severe. Possession of even small amounts of so-called 'soft drugs' attracts mandatory jail sentences.

It is illegal to take photographs of official buildings for publication.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in sexual activity with children under 16 while outside of Australia.

The Philippines also has strong laws against child sex crimes and human trafficking. A number of foreigners, including Australians, have been prosecuted for these offences in the Philippines.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities in the Philippines are adequate in major cities but are very limited in provincial regions and remote islands. Major private hospitals, particularly in Metro Manila, are well equipped and internationally accredited. Most hospitals will require up-front payment or guarantee of payment prior to commencing treatment, which can be expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the required facilities may be necessary. Medical evacuation costs are considerable.

Measles : A measles outbreak has been reported in the National Capital Region of the Philippines. Two doses of a measles containing vaccine (administered at least 4 weeks apart) is recommended prior to travel. Travellers with symptoms of measles should seek medical attention. As measles is highly infectious, you should call ahead before attending a health care facility.

Malaria is endemic in many provincial regions of the Philippines but does not affect the capital Manila. Dengue fever has been on the rise in Manila and neighbouring provinces along with outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases (including Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) in many areas particularly during the rainy season between June and November. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria where necessary. You should take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and leptospirosis.

Following flooding, travellers should be aware of the potential for outbreaks of leptospirosis and gastro-related illnesses. You should be aware that the high risk of contracting a water-borne disease continues after floods recede. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Ciguatera poisoning from eating reef fish can be a hazard. For more information on ciguatera poisoning see Queensland Health's fact sheet .

Decompression chambers are located in Manila, Cebu, Batangas, Subic and Palawan.

Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information, see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website .

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local station of the Philippines National Police (PNP). The PNP’s National Operations Center (NOC) hotline is +63 721 8613. The emergency services number is 117.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can’t do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below.

Australian Embassy, Manila

Level 23
Tower 2
RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Avenue
Makati City, 1200 PHILIPPINES
Telephone: (63 2) 7578 100
Facsimile: (63 2) 7578 344
Website: www.philippines.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to the Philippines, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency ? whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

In recent years the Philippines has experienced a number of natural disasters and severe weather events. Travellers to the Philippines should familiarise themselves with natural disaster and severe weather risks and monitor sources of information on latest developments. You should have a plan outlining the action you will take in the event of a disaster and identify the local sources of support and advice that you can draw on in the aftermath,

Typhoons

Typhoons usually occur in the Philippines between late May and early December and can result in substantial loss of life. This is also the wet season when tropical storms, flooding and landslides are common. If you are travelling during typhoon season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

Information on natural disasters is available from the following sources:

The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning. Telephone and internet communications, services and transport may be disrupted in affected areas.

In the event of an approaching typhoon, you should identify your local shelter. Flights and ferry services in and out of affected areas can be unsafe and could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline or ferry operator for the latest information. The typhoon could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe typhoon may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should review and follow hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our severe weather page.

Earthquakes and volcanoes

The Philippines is located on the Ring of Fire, and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Mayon, Taal and Bulusan volcanoes have a permanent danger zone (PDZ) established around their summits by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). Mayon volcano in Albay Province has a PDZ of six kilometres, Bulusan volcano has four kilometre PDZ and the entire volcanic island of Taal is a PDZ. You should avoid areas surrounding these volcanoes.

Increased activity ay Mayon volcano in September 2014: On 16 September the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council put the alert level around the Mayon Volcano in Bicol, South Luzon, under Alert Level 3. A hazardous eruption is possible within weeks. In the event of major volcanic activity, you should follow the advice of local authorities and monitor warnings issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) .

Tsunamis

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre website has information on seismic activity in the Pacific and the potential for tsunamis. All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure .

If a natural disaster occurs, you should monitor the media and other local sources of information closely and follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:

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