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Philippines 2013 Crime and Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Philippines > Manila

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

Crime is a significant concern in urban areas of the Philippines. Typical criminal acts include pick-pocketing, confidence schemes, acquaintance scams, and, in some cases, credit card fraud. Carjacking, kidnappings, robberies, and violent assaults sporadically occur. According to the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, the Total Crime Volume (TCV) in 2012 was 217,812 as compared to 2011 with 241,988 – a decrease of 24,176. Of the total 217,812 crime incidents, the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) registered the highest with 56,978 followed by Regions 3 (Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Tarlac, Aurora) and 7 (Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor) with 22,498 and 20,466 reported incidents respectively. Theft (43,606 incidents), physical assault (34,825 incidents), and robbery (26,988 incidents) are the top three commonly committed crimes according to the TCV.    

Overall Road Safety Situation

Traffic is dense, chaotic, and unpredictable. The road system is crowded, and drivers are undisciplined. Driving off the national highways and paved roads is particularly dangerous, especially at night, and should be avoided.  

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The Philippines will hold mid-term elections for the House of Representatives, local government positions, and half the Senate in May 2013.  Elections in the past have led to acts of violence targeting particular candidates, especially candidates for local-level offices, but they typically do not result in civil disturbances or large-scale clashes by partisan groups.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

For the last several years, the Department of State has warned U.S. citizens of the risks of terrorist activity in the Philippines. Terrorist groups and criminal gangs continue to operate in most regions of the Philippines. 

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has not targeted foreigners in recent years but could threaten U.S. citizens engaged in business or property management activities. The NPA frequently demands “revolutionary taxes” from local and, at times, foreign businesses and business people, and sometimes the NPA attacks infrastructure such as power facilities, telecommunication towers, and bridges to enforce its demands. In 2012, the NPA was very active, especially in areas of Mindanao. The NPA targeted, attacked, damaged, and destroyed mining equipment in Surigao and agricultural operations in Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental on numerous occasions. In December, the NPA kidnapped three government militiamen and three civilians in Davao City. 

Since 2008, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and rogue elements formerly associated with the MILF have clashed with the AFP in the Mindanao provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga, Zamboanga Sibugay, and the Sulu Archipelago. On October 15, 2012, the MILF and government of the Philippines signed a Framework Agreement, which calls for the creation of an autonomous political entity called the “Bangsamoro,” replacing the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The agreement provides the potential for peace between the two parties, but how it will affect and influence other armed insurgent and criminal groups is unknown. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a MILF splinter group, continues to confront AFP and other groups in Mindanao.

The Abu-Sayyaf Group (ASG) continues to operate in Mindanao, chiefly in Zamboanga and the Sulu Archipelago. In 2012, ASG members and affiliates conducted numerous raids against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) elements, kidnappings of civilians, and bombings throughout these regions.

In 2012, there were no confirmed reports of international or transnational terrorism in the Philippines.

Civil Unrest

Past incidents have shown that there is potential for political violence. On November 23, 2009, a politically-motivated massacre took place in the province of Maguindanao, claiming 57 victims, including 30 journalists, making it one of the worst election-related acts of violence in recent history. As a result, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) instituted a gun ban prior to all election cycles in an attempt to both curb violence among political rivals and to curtail the politically-related activities of armed partisan groups.  

There were 47 non-violent demonstrations held near the U.S. Embassy in 2012, just slightly less that in 2011 (50). These demonstrations all contained an element of anti-American sentiment, and each group’s goal was to reach the U.S. Embassy  As in 2011, most of the protest groups were intercepted by the PNP before reaching Embassy grounds. 

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Due to its geographic location, the Philippines is particularly vulnerable to typhoons, floods, earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. These disasters can easily set back hard won development and economic gains and can cause disruptions in communication and transportation. For example, 19 typhoons hit the Philippines area of responsibility in 2011, 10 of which the government considered destructive. The total cost of damages from these destructive typhoons totaled over $574 million.  

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), primarily through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), has provided humanitarian assistance in response to natural and man-made disasters. In 2012, USAID provided over USD$3.2 million in disaster assistance. For example, in early August, heavy monsoon rains exacerbated by Typhoon Haikui caused flooding in the Manila metropolitan area and much of northern and eastern Philippines, killing 109 people, displacing approximately 1.1 million others, and affecting nearly 4.2 million individuals. On August 7, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. declared a disaster due to the effects of the floods. In response, USAID provided assistance to support the distribution of relief supplies to flood-affected populations, as well as emergency logistics and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) support. 

Industrial and Transportation Accidents

Transportation safety involving maritime ferries tends to be substandard, and Embassy personnel are advised to avoid using such modes of transportation. In 2009, within two days, two aging ferries sank, resulting in significant loss of life and property. 

In 2012, while there were no commercial transportation accidents, a chartered Piper Seneca aircraft crashed off the coast of Masbate in August, killing Philippine Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and two other passengers. The Philippine Office of Civil Defense reported 19 maritime accidents for 2012.  

Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones

Because of the security concerns highlighted in the State Department’s Travel Warning for the Philippines (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_5734.html#), U.S. government employees must seek authorization for travel considered essential to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago. 

Drug-related Crimes

Production, trafficking, and consumption of illegal drugs are issues of concern. The trafficking and abuse of methamphetamine remains the foremost drug problem, followed by marijuana, and, to a lesser extent, ecstasy and cocaine. Transnational organized crime groups both exploit under-staffed and under-resourced law enforcement and a weak judicial system to establish clandestine drug laboratories and import wholesale quantities of methamphetamine to supply the domestic market. Authorities have raided methamphetamine laboratories in Metro Manila and Luzon. Regionally, the Philippines is an identified source of methamphetamine for Guam as well as a transit point for methamphetamine being shipped from Africa to Southeast Asia.

Kidnapping Threats

The PNP Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) is primarily responsible for kidnapping investigations. In 2012, AKG replaced the PNP Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER). AKG officials report that kidnapping incidents in Mindanao are mostly perpetrated by Muslim individuals/groups that are members or allies of terrorist organizations such as Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Lawless MILF Group (LMG). Kidnappings remain most prevalent in Western Mindanao particularly in the Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) area/provinces, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and in Cotabato-Central Mindanao Region, specifically in the provinces of South and North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and in the Chartered Cities of Zamboanga, General Santos City, Cotabato, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. 

Kidnapping for ransom (KFR) remains a danger.  Several militant groups see KFR as way to fund their operations, and foreigners are often targeted. AKG reports that in 2012 there were six kidnap for ransom cases by organized crime groups and five by KFR terrorist groups, for a total of 11 kidnappings in 2012 as compared to 24 in 2011 (a decrease by more than 50 percent). 

In February 2012, two European tourists were kidnapped on Tawi Tawi on the Sulu Archipelago. The two are still in captivity. 
  
While kidnappings occur throughout the country, the majority of cases in 2012 were concentrated in Mindanao and the Zamboanga Peninsula. Travelers are still advised to avoid Mindanao region.  

Police Response

The PNP is capable but is limited in its capacity to respond and assist victims of crime and traffic accidents due to a lack of response vehicles, radios, and other essential equipment. 

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment 

Reports of corruption and bribery, to include within the PNP, are widespread; it is U.S. government policy not to pay or condone bribes to officials. Should Americans feel they are being extorted by the police, they should contact that officer’s commander and report it to the Embassy. In the event of arrest or detention by the police, call the American Embassy at 301-2000. There is a duty officer available 24 hours a day.

Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime

All incidents of crime should be reported to the PNP, and it is important that foreigners remain calm and polite when interacting with the PNP to avoid misunderstandings and to get a more desired response.

Various Police/Security Agencies 

The National Emergency Number is 117. It is accessible ONLY through voice call (no text messaging).

Additional Police Contact Numbers
Manila-523-3378 (District Tactical Operations Center)
Makati City-843-7971 (Tactical Operations Center) 
Pasay City-831-1544 (TOC)
Quezon City-925-8417 (DTOC)

Additional Fire Contact Numbers
Manila-527-3627 and 527-3653 NOTE: For fire within the National Capital Region - HOTLINE 410-6319 (Central Operations Center). Emergency/Fire alarm will be relayed to respective fire district by radio.
Makati City-818-5150 and 816-2553
Pasay City-843-6523 and 844-2120
Quezon City-924-1922 and 928-8363

Medical Emergencies

Adequate medical care is available in major cities, but hospitals may not meet the standards of medical care, sanitation, and equipment provided by hospitals in the United States. Medical care is limited in rural and remote areas. There are many Western-trained Filipino doctors, who, in general, provide good, quality medical care even with sub-standard medical facilities. 

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost several thousands of dollars. Most hospitals will require a down payment of estimated fees at the time of admission and full payment prior to discharge. In some cases, public and private hospitals have withheld lifesaving medicines and treatment for non-payment. 

A list of doctors and medical facilities is on the webpage of the U.S. Embassy Manila at http://manila.usembassy.gov 

The National Emergency Number is 117. It is the only emergency telephone number in the world that is accessible through both voice telephony and text messaging.

Additional Medical Contact Numbers
Makati Medical Center:  888-8999 
St. Luke’s Global Hospital: 789-7700
Manila Doctors Hospital:  524-3011
Asian Hospital:  771-9000/9001/9002
International SOS-Philippines (Air Ambulance) 687-0909

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices

Travelers are advised to avoid Mindanao region. Travelers to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. 

Common sense and good situational awareness will keep most people out of harm’s way. Americans need to maintain awareness of their surroundings and exercise good judgment coupled with basic personal security habits while in country. Criminals prey on people who pay little attention to their surroundings or do not take basic personal security precautions. Never show large amounts of cash, do not wear a lot of jewelry, and always use reliable transportation. Credit card and ATM fraud can occur, so it is best to use credit cards at major retail facilities and banks and always check bills or statements for suspicious charges. Date-rape drug use has occurred; never leave a drink unattended or accept drinks from a stranger. There are many guard companies who provide armed residential and facilities security, if needed. 

U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information

U.S. Embassy Manila
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Manila, Philippines 1000
The Embassy operator can be reached at 63-2-301-2000 and is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week to connect callers to the proper Embassy duty officer. 
They are accessible Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Manila time, except U.S. and Philippine holidays. 

The American Citizen’s Services website is http://manila.usembassy.gov 

OSAC Country Council Information

There is an active OSAC Country Council in Manila. The OSAC points of contact are:
 

NAME

POSITION

OFFICE

MOBILE

EMAIL

Steve Cutler

Country Council Chairman

+63 (2) 844-7825

+63 (917) 509-1473

steve.cutler@osac.ph

Steve.cutler@ogcc.biz

 

 

 

 

 

Simoun Ung

Chairman and AmCham Security Disaster Resource Group

+63 (2) 884-1793

+63 (917) 526-2475

simoun.ung@osac.ph