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, which has experienced a recent increase in armed robberies. Expats should be cautious and vigilant in crowded public places to avoid petty crimes such as pickpocketing and mugging.
Expats in the Philippines should be aware of various scams targeting foreigners. These include Internet scams, credit card fraud 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.
Foreigners in the Philippines should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and wearing flashy watches or jewellery. Those who use common sense are less likely to become victims of crime.
The general emergency number in the Philippines is 112. Expats can also call 117 or 168 to reach the police directly.
Expats are advised to subscribe to an international insurance plan that provides a private air ambulance service.
Food and water safety in the Philippines
It is unsafe to drink tap water in the Philippines, 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 most natural disaster-prone countries on Earth.
The Philippines experiences several tropical cyclones annually, 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. Expats should have a plan of action in case of emergency and make sure that they have appropriate insurance coverage.
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 often 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 and an agreement that allows US troops to hold joint training with the Philippines army. 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 in recent times, 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 British and US, advise their nationals against all non-essential travel to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Expats venturing to these areas should do so with extreme caution, preferably in the company of a local who is familiar with the security situation on the ground.
►For more on road safety and public transport, see Transport and Driving in the Philippines.
Are you an expat living in Philippines?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Philippines. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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