Philippines - Consular Information Sheet
January 21, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Philippines is a developing democratic
republic located in South East Asia. The archipelago consists
of more than 7,000 islands, of which 880 are inhabited. The major
islands are Luzon in the north, Visayas in the center, and Mindanao
in the south. Tourist facilities are available within population
centers and main tourist areas. English is widely spoken in the
Philippines, and most signs are in English.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens are allowed to enter
the Philippines without a visa upon presentation of their U.S.
passport, which must be valid for at least six months after entry,
and a return ticket to the U.S. or onward ticket to another country.
Upon arrival, immigration authorities will annotate the U.S. passport
with an entry visa valid for 21 days. If you plan to stay longer
than 21 days, you will have to apply for an extension at the Philippine
Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Magallanes Drive, Intramuros,
Manila, Philippines. There are special requirements for the entry
of unaccompanied minors. Additional information concerning entry
requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Philippines,
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone
(202) 467-9300 or from the Philippines Consulates General in Chicago,
Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.
SAFETY/SECURITY: The security situation has improved in
most areas of the country in recent years. Most of the country
is hospitable to travel. The government has been engaged on and
off in negotiations with communist and Muslim rebels. Nevertheless,
rebel activity and armed banditry in certain areas of the Philippines
still poses potential security concerns. New Peoples Army insurgents
remain active in some mountainous and jungle areas, including
parts of Mindanao and Negros Island as well as Quezon Province
and the Cordillera and Bicol regions of Luzon.
In Mindanao, crime and insurgent activity may make travel hazardous
to and within the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del
Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga
del Norte, North and South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.
The threat of terrorist action by extremists, both domestic and
foreign, does exist in the Philippines. There are periodic reports
of plans for possible kidnapping or terrorist acts aimed at U.S.
Government installations, public and private institutions and
transportation carriers. Although there have been some attempts
directed against U.S. interests, most of these reports have not
been followed by terrorist action. Security is not a major concern
at the popular tourist and diving sites.
The State Department reminds all Americans traveling or living
abroad of the need to remain vigilant with regard to personal
security issues. With international events such as the actions
against Iraq in 1999, the August 7, 1998 bombings of the U.S.
Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the August 20, 1998 air
strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan, and the apprehension of persons
believed to be involved in the Embassy bombings, the potential
for retaliatory acts against the official American community exists
worldwide. Periodically, the U.S. Embassy receives credible threats
directed against USG personnel and/or facilities. The Embassy
takes these threats seriously, and they can usually be countered
by following some very basic personal security countermeasures,
which private Americans can also follow: Do not establish a pattern
in movement and travel; times and routes should be varied to the
extent possible. Maintain a low profile at all times, and immediately
report any unusual activity, to include possible surveillance,
to the Philippine police and Regional Security Office at the U.S.
Travelers are encouraged to call the U.S. Embassy for an update
of the current security situation, especially if traveling outside
the Manila metropolitan area.
CRIME INFORMATION: As in many of the major metropolitan
areas in the U.S., crime is a serious concern in Manila. As a
rule of thumb, Americans are advised to exercise good judgment
and remain aware of their surroundings. Reports of confidence
games, pick-pocketing and credit card fraud are common. If someone
offers you a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is.
Be wary of unknown individuals who attempt to befriend you, especially
just after you have arrived in country. Criminals have administered
drugs via proffered drinks to unwitting visitors in order to facilitate
robbery and assault. Tourists frequenting lower quality nightclubs
are particularly at risk. It is best not to flaunt your nationality
and to maintain a low profile. Avoid wearing large amounts of
jewelry, and do not carry large amounts of money. Visitors should
take advantage of safety deposit boxes at hotels. Taxis are the
recommended form of public transportation; however, the following
safeguards are important: do not enter a taxi if it already has
accepted another passenger, and also request that the meter be
used. If the driver is unwilling to comply with your requests,
it is best to wait for another cab. All other forms of public
transportation, such as the light rail system, buses and jeepneys,
should be avoided for both safety and security reasons.
Visitors should also be vigilant when using credit cards. One
form of credit card fraud involves the illicit use of an electronic
device to retrieve and record information, including the PIN,
from the card’s magnetic strip. The information is then used to
make unauthorized purchases. To limit your vulnerability to this
scam, never let your card out of your sight. Major problems have
occurred at large department stores and some hotel restaurants.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Manila
or the Consular Agency in Cebu. U.S. citizens can refer to the
Department of State pamphlet, A
Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free
journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent
of documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care is available
in major cities but is limited in rural and more remote areas.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical
evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars
or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas
may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company
to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision
for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made
to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed
later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also
include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition
of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical
emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is
provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
brochure, Medical Information for
Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular
Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: Travel within the
archipelago is possible by boat, plane, bus, or car. Few tourists
rent a car to drive, as the road system is crowded and drivers
are undisciplined. Driving off the national highways and paved
roads is particularly dangerous, especially at night. To avoid
overcrowded or unsafe transport, caution is urged in planning
travel by older, inter-island ferryboats or other public conveyances.
The information below concerning the Philippines is provided for
general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular
location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Constructions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
For specific information concerning Philippine driver’s permits,
vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact
the Philippines Department of Tourism via http://www.tourism.gov.ph.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) has assessed the Government of the Philippines civil aviation
authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation
safety standards for oversight of the Philippines’ air carrier
operations. For further information, travelers may contact the
Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873,
or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some
foreign air services. For information regarding the DOD policy
on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Department of
Defense at 1-618-229-4801.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Philippine laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or
imprisoned. Penalties are strict for possession, use, or trafficking
in illegal drugs. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences
and fines. Capital punishment is possible for certain drug-related
crimes. Swindling and "bad debts" are also serious criminal
offenses in the Philippines. The Philippine Government has very
strict laws regarding the possession of firearms by foreigners
and several foreigners have been sentenced to life imprisonment
for bringing firearms into the country. Americans who are arrested
overseas should immediately ask to speak to a U.S. Embassy representative.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: MARRIAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES: Any
foreigner who wishes to marry in the Philippines is required by
the Philippine Government to obtain from his/her Embassy a "Certificate
of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage" before filing an
application for a marriage license. The Government also accepts
an "Affidavit in lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity
to Contract Marriage." A U.S. citizen may execute this affidavit
at the American Embassy in Manila on Tuesday or Thursday mornings,
or at the Consular Agency in Cebu. The American must present his/her
U.S. passport, and there is a fee of U.S. $55.00 for executing
the affidavit. Philippine authorities will not accept any substitute
document initiated in the United States.
Execution of the affidavit is a notarial act by the U.S. consular
officer and, as such, the consular officer is authorized by Title
22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 92.9b, to refuse
to perform the service if the document in connection with which
the notarial act is requested will be used for a purpose patently
unlawful, improper, or inimical to the best interests of the United
States. Entering into a marriage contract with an alien strictly
for the purpose of immigration to the United States for that individual
is considered an unlawful act. Section 4221 of Title 22 United
States Code provides penalties for individuals who commit perjury
in an affidavit taken by a consular officer.
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENT FOR U.S. MILITARY PERSONEL: U.S.
military personnel should contact their personnel office regarding
DOD joint service regulations.
THE MARRIAGE APPLICATION PROCESS: Once an American citizen
has obtained from the Embassy an "Affidavit in Lieu of a
Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage," he/she
can file an application for a marriage license at the office of
the Philippine Civil Registrar in the town or city where one of
the parties is a resident. The U.S. citizen applicant will need
to present: (a) the affidavit, (b) divorce decree(s) or death
certificate(s) required to verify civil status and legal capacity
to contract marriage, (c) U.S. passport, and (d) documentation
regarding parental consent or advice, if applicable. (Marriage
applicants aged 18 to 21 must have written parental consent. Those
aged 22 to 24 must have received parental advice.) Philippine
law prohibits marriage for individuals under the age of 18. A
judge, a minister or other person authorized by the Government
of the Philippines can perform the marriage.
Marriage to a U.S. citizen confers neither citizenship nor an
automatic eligibility for entry to the United States. An immigrant
visa is required for a foreign spouse to live in the United States.
Questions about filing an immigrant visa petition to bring a foreign
spouse to the United States should be directed to the nearest
office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the State
Department’s Visa Office (202) 663-1225 or, while in the Philippines,
to the U.S. Embassy immigrant visa unit in Manila.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: The Philippines is a volcano-,
typhoon- and earthquake-prone country. During the rainy season
(May to November) there are typhoons and flash floods. Flooding
can cause road delays and cut off bridges. Typhoons in the vicinity
of the Philippines can interrupt air and sea links within the
country. Volcanic activity is frequent, and periodically the Government
of the Philippines announces alerts for specific volcanoes. Earthquakes
can also occur throughout the country. General information about
natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from
the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
CHILDREN’S ISSUES: For information on international adoption
of children and international parental child abduction, refer
to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULAR AGENCY LOCATION: U.S.
citizens living in or visiting the Philippines are encouraged
to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila,
located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila City; tel. (63-2) 523-1001.
The Consular American Citizen Services fax number is (63-2) 522-3242
and the ACS web page is http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/rp1/wwwh3004.html.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Cebu provides limited services for
U.S. citizens. The Consular Agency address is: Third Floor, PCI
Bank, Gorordo Avenue, Lahug, Cebu City; tel. (63-32) 231-1261.