The Philippines is becoming a more common destination for business travellers. As well as being home to the Asian Development Bank, the rising use of Filipino personnel for international call centres makes business travel to the area more frequent.
We’ve also had the good fortune to work locally in The Philippines and internationally with a high-profile international Filipino sportsman and have considerable experience with the country and its people. While we’ve had no drama, so to speak, that’s as much due to our high level of preparedness as it is due to the good nature of the Filipino people. In this post, and this podcast episode, we share some of what we know to help make your business trip to The Philippines safe and enjoyable.
State of the Nation
Travel to The Philippines does however come with risks. Some areas, particularly in the south, are exposed to radical guerilla type activity caused by extreme religious views. In some cases these activities are funded by kidnap for ransom so foreign travellers are especially at risk. , while others have a relatively high level of kidnap risk purely for financial gain. This activity has also included open warfare on the streets of some cities and villages and the occasional bomb in other parts of the country.
And while it hasn’t posed an imminent risk as yet, the presence of US forces in The Philippines and recent disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea put the country at risk if things escalate further.
Risk Management in The Philippines
For travellers who are high-profile, or well known, or people of influence, we would obviously advocate travelling with a security detail at the moment with everything that’s going on over there. Equally, companies sending journalists over to explore (or freelance journalists traveling under their own steam), either to research or conduct interviews, would be wise to reach out to a risk management provider who has experience operating in the Philippines.
Even organisations who are active in the country providing charitable aid are at risk and shouldn’t assume that their mission, so to speak, makes them less vulnerable to threat than others.
Everyone’s budget is obviously different but professional security or risk management company won’t oversell the requirements that each of those individual’s organisations need. It may be as simple as a single security advisor, or a project manager with a driver, or it might be something that’s a little more detailed depending on the situation at hand. Obviously, you’d tailor the response to the perceived or actual threats that are at hand for that particular traveller.
Whichever way you go, choose a company with local experience and/or a local security team. No matter how much international experience your usual team may have, nothing matches local knowledge. Obviously we’d be happy to discuss your needs. Please reach out to me directly if you have any questions.
Local Risks in The Philippines
Specific risks in The Philippines can include limited mobility. With the population spread over 7,000 islands, you’ll often find yourself having to use airplanes or ferries get to your destination. The standard of some of these may be lower than you find at home plus you can also be at the mercy of the extreme typhoons that can sweep through the country during the latter months of the year. Even during fair weather, you’ll usually find flights between cities in the country are routed through Manila so don’t assume that you’ll always be heading in a straight line. As Manila airport also serves the President, you can expect at times that it will be shut down to facilitate his travel.
Speaking of the President, keep in mind that there is currently a hard line government in place. If your business dealings and conduct are above board then this shouldn’t pose a problem but if corruption or drug use are on your to-do list, don’t expect to wriggle your way out of it too easily. The government currently has a shoot to kill policy for drug dealers who resist arrest so that gives you an indication of how seriously they look at drugs.
And even if you are playing by the rules, you could find yourself caught in the crossfire if law enforcement agencies happen to be active in the same area that you are. Be cautious about where you wander and try to stick to main thoroughfares and venues.
Mobility and Accommodation in The Philippines
As with many cities in the region, plan for travel delays in Manila and other Filipino major cities and have your travel manager put you in a pre-screened hotel close to your meeting locations. And by pre-screened we mean a hotel that has been reviewed by a security and risk management professional. Hotels may claim to have 24 hour security but in some cases this security leaves a lot to be desired.
Avoid the use of jeepneys or three wheelers for travel. They may be an iconic part of The Philippines experience but they don’t offer the same safety advantages as a professional driver with a suitable vehicle for secure travel.
Rounding off, we’d reinforce our usual warnings – travel with a grab bag and make sure you have contact details of local embassy and consulates on hand as well as details of pre-screened hospitals in case the need arises.
For more details on these, download our Business Travel Safety and Security Check List by signing up below.