Although most expats report feeling quite safe in the country, there are a number of safety and security concerns in the Philippines. It has a high crime rate and is subject to frequent natural disasters. Although the risk of terrorism remains relatively low, the southern regions of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago continue to experience insecurity due to the presence of numerous insurgent groups.
Expats should take necessary precautions when it comes to safeguarding their valuables and should always keep abreast of political developments and hazardous weather warnings.
Crime in the Philippines
Crime rates in the Philippines are high, with violent crime a particular concern. Gangs are active in large cities like Manila, and armed robberies have occurred on public transport. Expats should be cautious and vigilant in crowded public places to avoid petty crimes such as pickpocketing and mugging. Foreigners in the Philippines should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and wearing flashy watches or jewellery.
Expats in the Philippines should be aware of various scams targeting foreigners. These include internet and phone call scams, as well as credit card and ATM fraud. Credit card fraud is an ongoing problem in the Philippines and expats should use credit and debit cards with caution. It’s best to not use ATMs that have any unusual covers over the keypad or the card slot. These devices can record banking information and PINs.
- General emergency number: 911
- Police: 117
- Philippine Red Cross: 143
Expats are advised to subscribe to an international insurance plan that provides a private air ambulance service.
Food and water safety in the Philippines
The quality of tap water is questionable in the Philippines and it's generally recommended to avoid drinking it, but bottled water is readily available at shops and restaurants. Expats should remember that ice is made with tap water, so they should also avoid having ice in their drinks.
Natural disasters in the Philippines
The Philippines is one of the world's most natural disaster-prone countries. Expats should have a plan of action in case of emergency and make sure that they have appropriate insurance coverage.
The Philippines experiences several tropical cyclones annually, mostly between June and November, which can cause flooding and landslides that have devastating effects on the population. Expats should always be aware of the risks in the area where they are living and should always take cyclone and flood warnings seriously.
Earthquakes and volcanoes
The Philippines is also an earthquake zone and is vulnerable to volcanic activity. This includes the Mayon volcano in Albay Province and the Taal Volcano in the province of Batangas. Follow all advice from local authorities.
Protests in the Philippines
Protests are relatively common in the Philippines, particularly in larger cities. These are largely by anti-government groups. Anti-US protests are known to take place in Manila (in the vicinity of the US embassy). Activists have long been opposed to the presence of the US military in the region. Although most protests are peaceful, expats should avoid them as a precaution.
Insecurity in the southern Philippines
The southern Philippines remains insecure due to the ongoing activity of Islamist insurgent groups. These groups have carried out attacks against government buildings, public transport, local markets and religious festivals and are often involved in armed clashes with government forces.
Insurgent groups in the Philippines, particularly Abu Sayyaf, have also been responsible for the kidnapping of a number of people, including foreign nationals.
Due to the insecurity in the southern Philippines, a number of governments, including the UK and the US, advise their nationals against all non-essential travel to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.