Travel Alert Status
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
Safety and Security:
U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Philippines should carefully consider the risks to their safety and security while there, including the risk of terrorism. The southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago are of particular security concern. Travelers should defer all travel to the Sulu Archipelago and should exercise extreme caution on the island of Mindanao. For further information regarding the continuing threats due to terrorist and insurgent activities in the Philippines, see the Travel Warning for the Philippines.
Terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jema’ah Islamiyah, as well as groups that have broken away from the more mainstream Moro Islamic Liberation Front, have carried out bombings resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage; they have also taken hostages. The city of Zamboanga suffered widespread devastation in September 2013 during a deadly confrontation between Philippine public security forces and rogue fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front. Separately, bombings in central and western areas of Mindanao have targeted bus terminals, public buildings, public markets, and local festivals. While those responsible do not appear to have targeted foreigners, travelers should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Official U.S. government visitors and Embassy employees must seek special permission for travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago. When traveling in Mindanao, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profile, limit their length of stay, and exercise extreme caution. Some foreigners who reside in or visit western and central Mindanao hire their own private security personnel.
Kidnap-for-ransom gangs operate in the Philippines and have targeted foreigners, including Filipino-Americans. Such gangs are especially active in the Sulu Archipelago, and a number of foreigners have been kidnapped there in recent years.
Occasionally, the U.S. Embassy is the target of planned and/or spontaneous demonstrations. While Philippine security forces generally prevent such demonstrators from reaching the Embassy, in rare instances protestors have made their way successfully to the Embassy perimeter. In such instances, Embassy security authorities may take appropriate measures to safeguard personnel and visitors, including restricting access to the compound. U.S. citizens or other individuals having business at the Embassy should keep this in mind and be prepared to defer their business until any such situation is resolved.
U.S. citizens in the Philippines are advised to monitor local news broadcasts and consider the level of preventive security when visiting public places, especially when choosing hotels, restaurants, beaches, entertainment venues, and recreation sites.