Last Updated: October 21, 2015
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated May 20, 2015, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities.
U.S. citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.
Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao.
U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao. Separatist and terrorist groups continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces. Over the past nine months, at least 15 separate kidnappings have been reported across Mindanao. In western Mindanao, terrorist, insurgent, and criminal gangs regularly conduct kidnappings for ransom, including the kidnapping of a foreigner in Dipolog City in early October 2015 by unknown assailants. In central Mindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence. While there have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits, eastern Mindanao is not free from threats. In September 2015, assailants believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group kidnapped four individuals from the popular resort island of Samal, a 15 minute boat ride from Davao City. Two other individuals narrowly escaped kidnapping in the same incident. There have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.
Although U.S. government officials in the Philippines travel to Mindanao for official business without incident, the Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to the area, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for the Philippines. For additional information, refer to the Traveler’s Checklist on the State Department’s website.
Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.
The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section’s fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at ACSinfoManila@state.gov. The ACS Section’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the U.S. citizen community in the Philippines.