Terrorism – Philippines Travel Advice


There is a high probability that terrorists will try to launch an attack in the Philippines.You should remain vigilant at all times and report any suspicious situations to local authorities

Terrorist groups have the intention and capability to carry out attacks anywhere in the country, including the capital Manila and places visited by foreigners, such as shopping malls, entertainment venues, public transportation (including the airport and subway system), and places of worship. The attacks were carried out using small arms and improvised explosive devices, both in vehicles and carried by people.

Terrorist activities continue to pose a threat to groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), New People’s Army (NPA) and other related groups. Some groups have pledged allegiance to Daesh, officially known as ISIL, and may view Westerners as legitimate targets.

Notable recent events include:

  • On August 24, 2020, a double explosion occurred in Sulu Jolo, causing many casualties
  • On June 28, 2019, a double suicide attack occurred at the Indanan military base in Sulu Province, killing 3 civilians, 3 soldiers and 2 attackers.22 others were injured
  • On 27 January 2019, a bomb attack on a Roman Catholic church on the island of Jolo, Sulu province killed 27 people and injured many others
  • On December 31, 2018, an improvised explosive device exploded at the entrance of the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City, killing 2 people and injuring many others

In rural areas, armed clashes between security forces and militant groups occur frequently and without warning. Bystanders were injured in previous clashes. Before heading to a rural area, you should research the area thoroughly.

The threat of terrorist attacks against British interests and British nationals is believed to have intensified globally, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.


The kidnapping threat is high in the Philippines. Foreign nationals have been targeted by criminal and terrorist groups.

The threat is pervasive throughout the Philippines, with foreigners being targeted in rural, urban and coastal areas, private boats, marinas and resorts. The threat of kidnapping is not limited to terrorist strongholds, and kidnapping can be opportunistic. Kidnapping gangs have attempted to expand their reach to include working with affiliates to kidnap foreigners from one part of the Philippines before transporting victims to another.

This threat is particularly acute in the offshore areas of Mindanao and the Sulu Islands, as well as in the waters around the Sulu and Celebes Seas. On 4 October 2019, a British national and a Filipino-British dual national were abducted from a resort in Zamboanga, Western Mindanao. They were successfully rescued by the Armed Forces of the Philippines on November 25, 2019. However, some hostages, including foreigners, have been killed. A Dutch national was killed on 31 May 2019 after being held for seven years. Terrorist groups are likely to continue planning kidnapping operations against Western nationals.

British nationals are considered legitimate targets, including those working in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or the business sector. If you are kidnapped, your presence is unlikely to protect or ensure your safe release.

The consistent policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to the hostage-takers. The British government believes that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners can empower terrorist groups and fund their activities. This in turn increases the risk of further hostage-taking. The Anti-Terrorism Act (2000) makes it illegal to make payments to terrorists.

Commercial shipping companies are advised to exercise vigilance when navigating in the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea. The Regional Cooperative Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) recommends that all ships be diverted from the region if possible. Most maritime accidents occur in the Sulu Sea between Mindanao, the Sulu Islands, Palawan and Sabah (Malaysia). Vessels traveling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are likely targets, with terrorist groups threatening to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, especially those operating in Mindanao.


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