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Philippines 2009 Crime And Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific; East Asia & Pacific > Philippines

Overall Crime and Safety Situation


Typical of any major city, crime is problematic in metro Manila. The major crimes perpetrated are pick-pocketing, confidence schemes, and, to a lesser degree, credit card fraud. Kidnappings and violent assaults occur in metro Manila as well as elsewhere in The Philippines. It is important that Americans in the Philippines exercise good judgment, as well as remain cognizant of their surroundings.


Traffic in the Philippines, especially in Manila, can be chaotic and unpredictable. Motorists must take special care to be cognizant of other drivers who may not obey traffic signals/signs or stay in their respective lanes. The traffic infrastructure (roads/highways) in the Philippines is less developed than in the U.S. and signage or warnings of on-going road work are rare. Travel at night outside of Manila is not recommended due to the risk of robbery and/or kidnapping, and accidents.


The Department of State remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against Americans and interests throughout the world. The worldwide caution reminds Americans that terrorism can occur anywhere. Travelers should exercise extreme caution when traveling in the central and western portions of the island of Mindanao, as well as the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. Regional terrorist groups have carried out bombings resulting in death and injuries. Since August 2008, there have been sporadic clashes between lawless groups and the Philippine Armed Forces in the Mindanao provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, as well as the Sulu Archipelago. Kidnap for ransom gangs are active and have targeted foreigners. U.S. Government employees must seek special permission for travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago. Travelers to these regions should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Some foreigners who reside in or visit Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago hire their own security. Embassy Manila continues to receive reports of ongoing activities by known terrorist groups.


Political Violence


Terrorist groups and criminal gangs operate in some regions of the country, and extrajudicial killings continue to be a problem. The 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, business people, and sometimes attacks infrastructure such as power facilities, telecommunications towers, and bridges to enforce its demands. Since August 2008, there have been sporadic clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Armed Forces (AFP) in the Mindanao provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and the Sulu Archipelago. Terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jema'ah Islamiya (JI) periodically attack civilian targets in Mindanao, or kidnap civilians for ransom.


There were 20 demonstrations held in front or near the U.S. Embassy in 2008. Most of the protests were intercepted by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Four protesters from the League of Filipino Students were arrested on July 24, 2008, after they threw paint at the PNP. United States Government (USG) property was vandalized during a protest held on September 12, 2008.


Post-specific Concerns


Manila and the Philippines face an array of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, typhoons, floods, mud slides, and earthquakes. Typhoons are a common occurrence and the peak season runs from August to November of each year. American visitors to typhoon-prone areas are urged to be adequately prepared and should take extra precautions. In the event of a natural disaster, long term visitors should have emergency supplies such as flashlights, water, food, and a satellite or cellular phone.


Transportation safety involving maritime ferries and passenger buses tends to be substandard, and embassy staff are discouraged from using such modes of transportation; American travelers should also refrain from using such modes of transportation.


Kidnapping for ransom is usually orchestrated by organized crime syndicates, as well as by terrorist groups such as ASG, the NPA, and MILF.


Drugs and narco-terrorism are a problem in the Philippines. Elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) became involved in marijuana cultivation and trafficking during the 1980-90s. Some of these same MNLF elements have since migrated to the ASG and continue drug production and trafficking as a source of revenue for the ASG. The MILF and NPA also participate in drug cultivation and trafficking for revenue. The ASG and elements of the MILF are also directly involved in the smuggling of methamphetamine as well as protection of its production and transportation to other parts of the Philippines and across Southeast Asia.


Police Response


The PNP is helpful, but is limited in its capacity to sufficiently respond and assist victims of crime and traffic accidents due to a limited number of response vehicles. All incidents of crime should be reported to the PNP. It is important that foreigners remain calm and polite when interacting with the PNP. Filipinos can become easily offended when spoken to in a loud or rude fashion. Corruption is widespread throughout Filipino society, to include the PNP. The embassy recommends against paying bribes to police or any official. 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.


Emergency numbers:


Manila - 523-3378

Makati City - 843-7971 and 843-7168

Pasay City - 831-1359 and 831-8059

Quezon City - 924-1018




Manila - 527-3627 and 527-3653

Makati City - 818-5150

Pasay City - 843-6523

Quezon City - 924-1922 and 924-1857


Medical Emergencies


Adequate medical care is available in major cities, but even the best hospitals may not meet the standards of medical care, sanitation, and facilities provided by hospitals in the United States. Medical care is limited in rural and remote areas. There are many U.S. and western trained Filipino doctors, thus providing, in general, good-quality medical care, even with substandard 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 of bills. A list of doctors and medical facilities in the Philippines is on the web page of the U.S. Embassy in Manila at


Emergency Number - 117


Makati Medical Center - 815-9911


Manila Doctors Hospital - 524-3011


Asian Hospital - 771-9000/9001/9002


International SOS - Philippines (Air Ambulance) - 687-0909


Travel Precautions


Common sense and good situational awareness will keep most people out of harm's way. Criminals in the Philippines prey on people who do not pay attention to their surroundings or take personal security precautions. Never show large amounts of cash, don't wear a lot of jewelry, and always use reliable transportation, such as taxi services. Credit card and ATM fraud can occur, so it is best to only use credit cards at major retail facilities and banks and always check statements for suspicious charges. Date-rape drug use has occurred in the past so travelers are warned never to leave a drink unattended or accept a drink from strangers. There are many guard companies who can provide armed residential and facilities security, if needed. Travel to Mindanao should be avoided if possible.


Embassy Points of Contact


The Regional Security Officer is available to provide security briefings to representatives of American companies. The U.S. Embassy is located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines. The embassy telephone number is (63) (2) 301-2000. The American Citizen Services (ACS) unit's fax is (63) (2) 301-2017 and the ACS webpage is


OSAC Country Council


The OSAC point of contact is Serge Grynkewich.


Tel. - (63) (2) 687-0999