Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 13 April 2017, 15:00 NZST
  • Still current at: 30 April 2017

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Extreme Risk

There is extreme risk to your security throughout central and western Mindanao, including in the provinces of Sarangani, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (including the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi).  We advise against all travel to these areas. The very high threat of terrorist activity, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups makes travel to these areas extremely dangerous.

High Risk

There is high risk to your security in the remaining provinces of Mindanao and we advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel to these areas due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups.

Some Risk

There is some risk to your security elsewhere in the Philippines, including in Manila, due to the threat of terrorism, risk of kidnapping and violent crime and we advise caution.

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There is a threat of terrorist activity throughout the Philippines. A number of terrorist attacks have been conducted in the past and a significant number of plots have been disrupted. Explosive devices causing deaths and injuries have been detonated in public places in major cities in Mindanao and in the Sulu archipelago.

On 1 December 2016, the Philippines government increased its terror alert level for the entire country to its highest level (Level 3 out of 3). You should expect to see increased security in public places, particularly at malls, airports and other major transport hubs.

On 28 November 2016, an improvised explosive device was found near the US Embassy in Manila and subsequently made safe by security officials.

On 2 September 2016, an explosion in Davao City, Mindanao killed at least 15 people and injured many more. The Philippines Government has declared a “state of lawless violence” throughout the Philippines to allow for additional security measures to be implemented.

New Zealanders in the Philippines are advised to be security conscious at all times and remain vigilant in public places – particularly at transport hubs and on public transport. You should monitor the media for potential threats to safety and security and follow any instructions issued by the local authorities.

We continue to receive reports that terrorists aspire to conduct attacks in the Philippines. The possibility of future attacks cannot be discounted, particularly in the Mindanao islands group, but attacks could occur anywhere and at any time. In December 2015, Philippines authorities warned of an increased threat to some areas that may be frequented by tourists, such as Palawan, southern Negros island and Boracay island (Aklan). Possible targets could include public transport, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship.  

Militant groups remain active in the Philippines and are involved in attacks, often on security forces. Armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups take place regularly, particularly in the southern provinces and the island of Mindanao. Clashes could occur with little notice, especially in the areas to which we advise against all travel. 

There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines. The risk is particularly high in the southern Philippines, including (but not limited to) central and western Mindanao, the Sulu archipelago and coastal resort areas, offshore islands and dive sites in the Sulu Sea. 

There are indications that criminal and terrorist groups have expanded their reach and capability to conduct kidnappings across the southern Philippines. These groups may operate across a wide area and kidnap individuals before transporting them to another location. It is possible that groups have the capability to target locations frequented by tourists in southern Palawan, Central Visayas, southern Negros or Siquijor.

On 9 April 2017, the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines advised its citizens that it had received unsubstantiated yet credible information that terrorist groups may attempt to conduct kidnappings in Central Visayas, which includes both Cebu and Bohol provinces. Subsequently, on 11 and 12 April 2017 there were clashes between Philippine security forces and heavily armed members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Inabanga, Bohol, resulting in casualties. If you are travelling to Central Visayas, we advise exercising vigilance and a high level of security awareness.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs have in the past specifically targeted foreigners, as well as Filipinos. On 7 October 2015, a foreign national was kidnapped in Dipalog, Zamboanga del Norte.  On 21 September 2015, three foreign tourists were abducted by armed men from Samal Island, Mindanao. Some victims have been held in captivity for long periods and others have been killed. 

Violent crime (including gun crime) and petty crime continue to be a serious concern in the Philippines.  Criminal gangs are particularly active in Manila, including in the Makati central business district, and have drugged and robbed unsuspecting tourists.
New Zealanders are strongly advised to exercise a high degree of caution and pay close attention to personal security at all times when travelling anywhere in the Philippines. 

We recommend particular vigilance if using public transport (including buses, jeepneys and the light rail system) due to security concerns. When taking taxis, it is advisable to use taxis called by hotel staff or alternatively from taxi ranks located outside malls rather than hailing one in the street.  Hotel transportation is a good alternative. 

Maritime Safety
Ferry accidents are not uncommon in the Philippines, especially when vessels sail in bad weather.  Ferries are often not adequately maintained and have insufficient safety equipment. 

We recommend that New Zealanders considering travel by ferry assure themselves of the vessel’s seaworthiness and safety equipment before travelling. 

Natural Disasters
The Philippines is affected by a number of typhoons each year, with most occurring between June and December.  We recommend monitoring local media, the Philippines state weather agency and the Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to stay informed. 

There are a number of active volcanoes in the Philippines.  Filipino authorities have imposed permanent dangers zones around a number of these volcanoes.  For reports on volcanic or seismic activity, travellers should seek advice from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). 

General Travel Advice
New Zealanders travelling or living in the Philippines should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. 

New Zealanders in the Philippines are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The New Zealand Embassy Manila, Philippines

Street Address 35th floor Zuellig Building, Makati Avenue cor Paseo de Roxas, Makati City 1225 Postal Address PO Box 3228 MCPO, Makati 1272, Manila, The Philippines Telephone +63 2 234 3800 Fax +63 2 891 5357 Email Web Site Hours Mon-Fri 0800-1630 hrs

See our regional advice for South East Asia

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New Zealand Embassy Philippines

Street Address
35th floor Zuellig Building, Makati Avenue cor Paseo de Roxas, Makati City 1225

Telephone: +63 2 234 3800

Fax: +63 2 891 5357



Hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1630 hrs

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