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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Philippines

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. Embassy.

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.

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