Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

  • Reviewed: 22 June 2022, 13:30 NZST
  • Still current at: 8 December 2022

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COVID-19

If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here, alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

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 (level 4 of 4).

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 (level 3 of 4).

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 (level 2 of 4).

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Philippines

Security situation
The 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. 

Terrorism
There are individuals and groups in the Philippines who aspire and actively plan 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, including in Manila, and at any time. Possible targets include (but are not limited to) places known to be frequented by expatriates or foreign tourists, public transport, shopping areas, markets, hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, banks, embassies, events 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 we describe as extreme risk. Explosive devices causing deaths and injuries have been detonated in western Mindanao, some impacting civilians.

  • On 24 August 2020, a dual bomb attack in Jolo, Sulu killed 14 people and injured 75.
  • On 7 September 2019, a bomb blast in a public market in Sultan Kudarat, Minanao injured 7 people.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Kidnapping
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 31 May 2019, one foreigner was killed after being held for several years in the Sulu province.
  • 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.

Violent Crime
There are high rates of violent crime throughout the Philippines, including armed robbery, assault and murder. Criminal gangs are active in the Manila area, and have drugged and robbed unsuspecting tourists. Crime is more prevalent at night, particularly in urban areas.

Gun ownership is widespread and poorly regulated. Gunfights between police and criminals are not uncommon, including in tourist areas in Manila. Bystanders are often caught in the crossfire and have been injured and killed in such incidents.

As victims of robbery are often targeted due to their perceived wealth, it is advisable to avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable, such as electronic devices, cameras and jewellery.

New Zealanders in the Philippines are advised to be security conscious at all times and should avoid walking and travelling at night, particularly to isolated areas. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of a robbery, mugging, or carjacking as this could lead to an escalation in violence. 

We recommend particular vigilance if using public transport (including buses, jeepneys and the light rail system) due to security concerns. Armed hold-ups have occurred. 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 or GrabTaxis are a good alternative.

Crime
Petty crime such as bag snatching and pickpocketing occurs often in the Philippines and is particularly common in tourist areas, in larger cities and on public transport. We advise New Zealanders to be alert to their surroundings at all times and take steps to safeguard and secure their personal belongings.  

There have been incidents of drink spiking followed by robbery and assault reported in the Philippines. Extra care should be taken to ensure your food and drink is never left unattended. We recommend against accepting drinks from strangers or recent acquaintances.

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs frequently. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards. Only use ATMs in public, well-lit areas or in secure locations, such as a banks or shopping centres.

Scams
Commercial and internet fraud is common in the Philippines. New Zealanders should be wary of any offers that seem too good to be true, as they may be a scam.

Fake internet relationship schemes are common. Be wary, do not meet up with or send money to any person you have any doubt about.

For further information see our advice on Internet Fraud and International Scams.

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 deportation. 

Maritime Safety
Piracy remains a threat in the coastal waters off the Philippines, particularly in and around the Sulu and Celebes seas. 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.

Road Safety
Road conditions are poor throughout the country, traffic is often congested and many drivers do not respect road rules. Accidents involving motorbikes or scooters are frequent. If driving in the Philippines, avoid travelling outside urban areas or tourist centres after dark, be cautious around motorbikes and scooters, and stay on national highways and other sealed roads. Always wear a helmet if travelling using a motorbike or scooter, and check whether your travel insurance policy covers you when riding one.

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
Check with local authorities, airlines or accommodation providers for updated entry requirements for each city/province. 

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 nzemmanila@mfat.govt.nz Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/philippines 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

Email: nzemmanila@mfat.govt.nz

Website: http://www.mfat.govt.nz/philippines

Hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1630 hrs

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