Philippines Country Report
President Rodrigo Duterte remains a controversial and popular figure. Resumption of Duterte's signature anti-narcotics operations in January 2018 is likely to intensify police action across the Philippines and provoke a rise in drug-related violence after a year-long hiatus. In December 2017, the Congress approved a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao amid fears that the Islamic State-linked insurgents were regrouping following the end of the group's five-month long occupation of Marawi city. We expect terrorism risks to increase in 2018 across Mindanao as security forces confront the resurgent Islamist militants. Similarly, the National People's Army communist insurgents will continue to target security forces, mining assets, construction sites, mobile phone towers, powerassets, and foreign agricultural firms in IED and arson attacks.
The government's broad attitude towards foreign investment is positive, particularly in sectors where the Board of Investments (BOI) seeks to encourage greater foreign participation. However, President Rodrigo Duterte's inclination to arbitrarily intervene in business-government disputes, including in the telecommunications, power, and energy sectors, raises operational risks in the Philippines. There are also sectors, such as retail and financial services, in which foreign investment is restricted to minority ownership. Demand for bribes by officials is also common. Special economic zones generally enjoy better infrastructure and provide special incentives to foreign investors.
Terrorism risks across the Philippines are the highest in Southeast Asia. Terrorism risks are likely to increase across Mindanao in 2018 as security forces confront the resurgent Islamist militants, especially following the Marawi City siege. Islamic State-linked groups have developed their capability considerably, and in collaboration with other Islamist groups, they will conduct attacks against security forces and civilians using small-arms and improvised explosive devices. Terrorism risks are very high in Mindanao, and although they are lower across the rest of the Philippines, there is a growing risk that militants may attempt attacks in Manila.
The Philippines is involved in a territorial dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Although a full-scale military conflict is unlikely, there is an ongoing risk of limited confrontation. The risk of this will increase if China begins construction on Scarborough Shoal and the Philippines invokes its mutual defence treaty with the United States. However, improved China-Philippines relations under President Rodrigo Duterte will probably lower the risk of confrontations in 2018.
Politically motivated protests will remain common in Manila but are usually peaceful and typically do not cause substantial property damage. Popular protests will probably be motivated by corruption scandals, elections, aggressive actions by China in the South China Sea, or incidents pertaining to the US military presence in the Philippines. Anti-mining protests supported by NGOs and the Catholic Church are also probable in Cagayan, Caraga, Marinduque, Mindanao, Misamis Oriental, Oriental Mindoro, and Palawan regions but will also largely remain peaceful.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Japanese Encephalitis: For stays of longer than one month in a rural zone during the rainy season (for children over the age of one). The vaccine is administered in a local medical facility.
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
The country is prone to serious volcanic and seismic activity as it is located in the Ring of Fire, an area along the Pacific Ocean in which 75 percent of the world's active volcanoes are found and almost 90 percent of all earthquakes take place. Mount Bulusan, a volcano located some 250 km (160 mi) from the capital Manila, spewed ash in June 2016 and triggered 113 earthquakes over 24 hours. Earthquakes occur on a regular basis (on average one per month) and can trigger tidal waves. A tsunami warning was issued in April 2017 after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mindanao. Nationwide earthquake drills occur on a regular basis, with all types of businesses and institutions (educational, medical, government) taking part in a scenario simulating a 7.2-magnitude earthquake (on the Richter scale.)
The Philippines is regularly exposed to typhoons and tropical storms during the monsoon season - which spans from November to April in the northeast, and from May to October in the southwest. On November 8, 2013, the powerful cyclone Haiyan devastated the central Philippines; 6000 people were killed and millions of others lost their homes. In October 2015, Cyclone Koppu struck the north of the archipelago, killing 50 people and injuring tens of thousands on the island of Luzon. The latest major meteorological incidents occurred during the 2016 monsoon season, during which two typhoons and one tornado hit the Philippines. No casualties were reported, but severe floods and mudslides followed torrential rains.
Traveling by car can be dangerous in the Philippines due to dense, chaotic, and unpredictable traffic, especially in metro Manila. Roads are frequently congested and drivers aggressive, causing emergency services to struggle to reach accident sites on time, as they are often not given the right-of-way.
The sub-par state of roads outside large cities may pose a risk for travelers. Avoid traveling off national highways and in secluded, rural areas. Criminals may attempt to attract your attention by feigning a need for assistance, or by wearing military uniforms and forcing vehicles to stop at fake checkpoints. Always drive with the doors locked, windows rolled up, and all belongings out of sight.
Individuals present in the Philippines should never hail a taxi off the street; instead, pre-book it from your hotel. Check that the meter is functioning.
Domestic air travel can be dangerous. All Philippine airlines are listed on the European Union "blacklist" due to insufficient safety standards and poor maintenance of aircrafts. Nonetheless, Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific have substantially improved their safety measures. In June 2015, the European Commission announced that Philippine air companies could once again utilize European airspace after a five-year prohibition.
The climate of the Philippines is tropical. Conditions in the south are especially hot and humid and the region receives abundant rain throughout the year. Towards the north, monsoon winds bring rain from July until October, with a peak in rainfall between August and October. This period is also cyclone season. From October to February, conditions are cooler and generally dry, except along the northern coasts. Between March and May, the weather is hot and dry.
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