While most people you will meet in the Philippines are super friendly and the places are incredibly beautiful, there are a few areas that are unsafe for travelers. Here's a list of places to avoid, to make your visit to the Philippines safe.
The President of the Philippines declared martial law in the south of the country on May 23, 2017, following an attack on government facilities in the city of Marawi by ISIS insurgents. The military rule, superceding civil law, will remain in effect for 60 days. Other reports say President Duerte is considering imposing martial law across all of the Philippines, although at time of writing this had not been confirmed.
The military is an ever-present force in the Philippines, mainly due to the high risk of terrorism. Even when a ceasefire has been called, violence could flare up without warning. So, regardless of the current state of affairs during your stay, it‘s best to avoid these areas altogether.
Terrorism is perhaps the biggest threat to tourist safety in the Philippines and continues to be an increasing and ongoing problem.
The whole of the far south is a no-go zone: the areas of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, and the Zamboanga Peninsula are all considered extremely dangerous and travelers are advised to stay away. The terrorist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been blamed for numerous violent incidents, kidnappings, and frequent clashes with the Filipino security forces.
Spin-off terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jema‘ah Islamiyah, have broken away from MILF, and are particularly dangerous. They are responsible for bombings which have resulted in property damage, injury and death. The more rural areas of the country, including the island of Luzon to the north, should be avoided as it has seen the increased presence of the terrorist organization, The New People‘s Army (NPA).
Over the past few years, terrorist acts, involving explosive devices in North Cotabato Province, Basilan, Isabela City, Jolo, Cotabato City, Makati and the Zamboanga airport, have resulted in 41 deaths, and severe injury to well over 100 more. Most of the bombings took place on public transportation, and in crowded locations including restaurants and cathedrals.
The unpredictability of terrorist acts makes them much more dangerous, so steer clear of the locations where they are more likely to occur.
The risk of kidnap is especially hazardous for visitors because terror groups target travellers from overseas for the high profile publicity, and the high ransom they can obtain from relatively wealthy families. Thankfully, these crimes are not widespread. The following locations carry a higher risk of kidnapping and should be avoided:
Additionally, several foreigners have been captured in Zamboanga City, Pagadian City, Patikul and Jolo in recent years.
Early in November 2016, the US Government issued a warning to its citizens, and, by implication, any foreign visitors, traveling to the southern part of Cebu island in The Philippines. The warning says the notorious kidnap and ransom rebels, Abu Sayaf, intend to target foreigners in holiday destinations, including the Dalaguete, Santander and Sumilon island resorts.
The US Government advice, repeated by other foreign departments including Australia’s DFAT, is for travelers to avoid these areas, to review personal security plans, to remain alert to their surroundings, monitor local news reports for updates and be vigilant.
Kidnappings are difficult to predict and therefore can be challenging to avoid. Travel in groups and stay away from areas that have seen an increase in recent kidnapping incidents. There are plenty of beautiful locations throughout the Philippines that are trouble-free.
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Be warned, you'll be taking a huge risk if you ignore warnings about the dangers of foreigners being kidnapped in these areas of the Philippines.