Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 15 August 2018, 10:40 NZST
  • Still current at: 14 November 2019

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Do not travel

Do not travel to central and western Mindanao (including the Sulu Archipelago) due to the very high threat of terrorist activity, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups.

Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid non-essential travel to the remaining provinces of Mindanao due to the threat of terrorism, kidnapping and violent clashes between the military/police and terrorist or rebel groups.

Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution elsewhere in the Philippines, including in Manila, due to the threat of terrorism, risk of kidnapping and violent crime.

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Security situation
Martial law is in place across the whole of Mindanao due a serious insurgency in Western Mindanao until 31 December 2019. Martial law increases authorities power to detain suspects and put in place curfews and checkpoints.

The deteriorating security situation in Mindanao is contributing to a more uncertain security situation throughout the Philippines. We encourage travellers to the Philippines, including Manila, 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. Take official warnings seriously - including all security procedures.

There are individuals in the Philippines who aspire to conduct terrorist attacks. A number of terrorist attacks have been conducted in the recent past. The possibility of future attacks cannot be discounted, particularly in the Mindanao islands group, but attacks could occur anywhere and at any time. Possible targets could include public transport, shopping malls, open-air markets, hotels, restaurants and places of worship.

In western Mindanao regular clashes have taken place between Philippines security forces and insurgent groups. Militant groups remain active in the Philippines and are involved in attacks. Armed clashes between security forces and rebel groups take place regularly, particularly in the Mindanao Islands Group. Clashes could occur with little notice, especially in areas that we advise you not to travel to as above. Explosive devices causing deaths and injuries have been detonated in western Mindanao, some impacting civilians.

On 27 January 2019 twin bombings occurred at Jolo Cathedral in the province of Sulu in Mindanao. At least 21 people were killed and 111 wounded.

On 31 December 2018, an improvised explosive device exploded at the entrance to the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City, resulting in 2 deaths and 28 injuries.

From May to October 2017, armed conflict took place in Marawi, Lanao del Sur between Philippine Government security forces and militants affiliated with ISIL.

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 2 September 2016, an explosion in Davao City, Mindanao killed 14 people and injured 70.

There is an ongoing threat of kidnapping throughout the Philippines, on land and at sea. Kidnap-for-ransom gangs are known to target foreigners, as well as Filipinos. 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. On 7 November 2017, one foreigner was shot and another abducted from Sulu, southern Mindanao. Some victims have been held in captivity for long periods and others murdered.

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. Kidnapping threats occurred in 2017 in Palawan, Cebu and Bohol provinces.

Violent crime (including gun crime) and petty crime continue to be a serious concern in the Philippines. Criminal gangs are active in the Manila area, 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.

Civil unrest
Demonstrations and large public gatherings are common, and can occasionally cause transport issues. New Zealanders in the Philippines are advised to avoid all demonstrations, protests and large public gatherings as even those intended as peaceful have the potential to turn violent with little warning. Officials have warned that foreigners attending any of the above may lead to detention and deportations.

Maritime safety
Piracy remains a threat in the coastal waters off the Philippines. Mariners are advised to be vigilant and take appropriate precautionary measures in these waters. For more information, view the International Maritime Bureau's piracy report.

Ferry accidents are not uncommon in the Philippines as they are often not adequately maintained and have insufficient safety equipment. New Zealanders considering travel by ferry should assure themselves of the vessel’s seaworthiness and safety equipment before travelling. Maritime rescue services may be limited.

Natural disasters
The Philippines is affected by around 20 typhoons each year, with most occurring between June and December. Flooding is frequent following heavy rains, and landslides can occur. We recommend monitoring local media, the Philippines state weather agency and the Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to monitor approaching storms.

Seismic activity
The Philippines is located in an active seismic zone, and is prone to volcanic activity and earthquakes. There are a number of active volcanoes in the Philippines and  Filipino authorities have imposed permanent danger zones around a number of these volcanoes. Familiarise yourself with earthquake security measures. For further information, see the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

General travel advice
The Philippines Government has announced Boracay island will be temporarily closed to tourism from 26 April 2018 for six months. Hotels, flights and other tourist services will be disrupted. Contact your airline, hotel, travel agent or tour operator directly for up-to-date information.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.

Foreigners are required to carry a form of identification at all times to present to authorities if asked. A photocopy of your passport is acceptable.

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.

Travel tips

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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