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Many ask “Is it Safe To Live in the Philippines?”

Lately I’ve observed many people asking if it is safe to live in the Philippines.  Is it safe any place on earth? Personally, my answer would be no it is not safe any place on earth. However, from my experience and research, living in the Philippines is safer than most other places.

To answer this question, I’ve been looking at stats on two sites, Nation Master and 360 Data. I don’t find it easy to really get clear numbers. Total crime in the Philippines though is much lower than that of most Western nations.

Coming in at the top for total crime is the USA and honorable mention goes to the United Kingdom from coming in second.  France and Germany are not far behind. A little further down the list is Canada. The Philippines comes in at number 47.

Total crime though isn’t really a good number though, it doesn’t tell us if it is safe to live in the Philippines. Total crime doesn’t address how likely one is subject to be a victim of crime. I have only been able to find per capita number for murder. In that statistics the Philippines does not fair as well. The Philippines didn’t do a lot worse than the USA and did better than many other countries.

The numbers I have found are rather old too. It seems the UN did a study in 2000 and much of the data comes from that.

Philippines the rate of homicide per 100,000 people was:

2000 7.59
2003 4.97
2004 4.31

I don’t know where the 2003 and 2004 numbers came from. They are significantly lower though.

In the USA I only have number for the year 2000 for the same data

2000  4.55

So for the year 2000 the chance of being murdered in the Philippines was considerably higher but not so in later years.

Here is a chart from 360 Data

Is it safe to live in the Philippines as a foreigner?

How safe it is for a foreigner living in the Philippines gets a lot harder to address. I have looked many times for statics on this but have never found any.

What we also don’t know is if foreigners are more likely to be victimized in the Philippines. Since foreigners are perceived to be wealthy and most of us are when compared to the average native population, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that we are more likely to be targeted. We stick out like black bear in snow. It is reasonable to  ask is it safe to live in the Philippines as a foreigner. I don’t have any facts to back that any position up.  I can only offer observations.

What I do know is that foreigners are avoided by most kidnapping groups. So the leap in what seems logical doesn’t always hold true. I wrote a story back in 2010 about kidnappings in the Philippines. When it comes to kidnappings, it is safer to live in the Philippines if you’re a foreigner rather than a native.

There might be some areas of the Philippines where you are more at risk. I think Angeles City is one such place. I do see more reports of murdered Westerners there than I do any place else in the Philippines. That could be because there is a higher concentration of foreigners there. It is also just as likely because of the activities that on there. When sex and money meet, danger is sure to follow.  So one would have to compare it to like places in the USA. I doubt the crime rate in Angeles City is as bad as the projects of Memphis Tn.

I wouldn’t go into a housing project in Memphis on my own free will. Many good people live in the projects. It is the not so good people that cause the problem and they usually cause lots of problems. The same will hold true for Angeles City.

I would rather go into the most dangerous area of the Philippines, the Sulu Region than a gang infested housing project in Memphis or Detroit.

You ask me is it safe to live in the Philippines and I’ll ask you if you heard about the Memorial Day chaos on the Streets of Miami this year?

Update: Video No Longer Available.

This second video provides more information but the audio is quite poor.

In other videos I watched on the situation it became doubtful that the police shot the bystanders as the person in the car was shooting at random.

I have never heard of random shootings in the Philippines or of some guy driving down a road and crashing into cars while going about his random shootings. You live in the USA and you ask is it safe to live in the Philippines? If you live in the USA you’re in one of the most dangerous places in the world already. However, it is normal for humans to have a fear of the unknown. If we didn’t, we’d be likely to try new things without caution and new things should be addressed with caution. Living in the Philippines should also be addressed with caution.  I think safety though is way down the list of things for you to be concerned about.

There was an incident in Manila a few years ago where police were involved in a shootout where a man and his child were killed in the crossfire. There was a lot of controversy over that and if memory serves me, some police where later charged in that shooting and much of it was staged. I don’t recall the facts but it still in no way compares to the kind of violence that one can see in these two videos. I’ve seen nothing in the Philippines close to this.

The bus hostage criises would come the closest to random killings. It made international news. I don’t think it would have if had happened in the USA. The Philippines suffered much embarrassment in thatBangsamoro situation, most of which I thought was unjustified. The only real mistake was arresting the hostage taker’s relative during the crisis and that did lead the gunman to go on his killing rampage. Better timing might have been in order. Oddly, I never heard anyone criticize that mistake. Perhaps I missed it.

Terrorism In The Philippines

There are acts of terrorism in the USA. I think the ties to Al Qaeda have been down played. I think they were stronger than what we have been lead to believe. Last year though, the Armed Forces of The Philippines carried out a major offensive aimed at Abu Sayyaf and appear to have severely weakened that group. Abu Sayyaf is the group that has been linked to Al Qaeda. They operate mostly in Bangsamoro or the Western Mindanao and in the past, many foreigners have been prevented from entering the Sulu Region. This is where the terrorist have been the most active. The Sulu Region is that group of island between the Philippines and Malaysia shown in red on the map. The Zamboanga Peninsula is also included in the Bangsamoro area.

Areas south of that region are prone to civil conflict as well. You should avoid rural areas in most of Mindanao.

Are bad things certain to happen to you if you go to these areas. Not at all. There are many expats in the Zamboanga Peninsula but it is unlikely I’ll ever be one of them. It simply is more dangerous there no matter what anyone tells you. Though probably nothing bad is going to happen to you there either.

I even read a story of a couple sailing to different parts of the world that stopped in the Sulu Region. Their blog entry went something like “We found these wonderful little island off between the Philippines an Malaysia that were inhabited by a wonderful group of Muslim Filipino that survived by fishing.”

Wow, what a wonderful adventure. I agree that would be awesome. However, they did have some luck in their encounter. Had they found the wrong group of people, they would have been kidnapped for ransom. This is how the terrorist fund their activities. Terrorist will not hesitate to draw attention to themselves by kidnapping foreigners. They thrive off attention. Attention is a major element of terror. Is it safe to live in the Philippines, relatively speaking, I think it is. Is it safe to live in the Sulu Region of the Philippines? I think it would be safer to play Russian Roulette.

My mouth probably hit the floor when I read of this tale. I don’t know if they ever realized how lucky they were. I’m sure most of the people there are quite wonderful. I’m also certain had they lingered in this area, they probably would have a book deal rather than writing on a personal blog. That is, if they were ever seen again.

A group of International Red Cross workers entered into that area and refused military escort. They ended up spending about a year in captivity.

How to be Safer Living in the Philippines

There certainly are things you can do in the Philippines to put yourself at more risk. Those same things would put you at more risk in the US too.

Most people that live in the Philippines will warn you not to wear expensive jewelry in the Philippines. Don’t wear any jewelry in the Philippines until you know more about it. Thieves won’t know if it is expensive or not.  That’s one of the first lessons Filipino taught me. They are a lot less likely to kill you for it though.

Most of the foreigners that get themselves killed in the Philippines have been tied to underage girls. I didn’t say all, I said most. Most of the reports I read in the paper also include mentions of the foreigner having been known to hang out with an underage Filipina. Yep, that will get you killed in the Philippines. The second most common thing I find in murders of foreigners in the Philippines is they take place in Angeles City.

I think there is something far more important than not wearing jewelry. The single best way to avoid trouble is to avoid confrontation. If a jerk acts like a jerk, do not engage them. Walk away, get yourself into a safer situation and do not antagonize them.

Put your pride and ego on the shelf and you’ll live longer. Don’t want to do that? Okay, deal with the consequences. Me, I’ll avoid confrontation and live to enjoy another day. I see no point in doing battle with some idiot that wants to cause trouble. An idiot that I will never see again and that has zero significance regarding the rest of my life. At least that is my goal. One never knows how they might react to any given situation if they are caught in the wrong mood at the wrong time. My temper is usually well controlled but catch me at the wrong time and I’ll fight back. Crime in the Philippines would be significantly less though if we all could remember to respond with humility rather than with anger.

Avoiding confrontation is also one of the biggest hints the experts give on avoiding kidnapping. It is my perception that most Filipino will also avoid confrontation. Some people mistake Filipino as being compliant or passive. This is a mistake. It is also my perception if you push a Filipino far enough that they often believe revenge is best served cold.

This is an Asian country. Face is important. Loss of face is a serious thing to Filipino. The Philippines has been colonized, occupied and enslaved by Westerners and other Asian nations and I think they are fed up. Don’t come to the Philippines and insult this nation. Go home if you hate it because the attitude that you are better than them will get you killed.

In other words, if you’re nice and act within the law and behave in a responsible, kind and respectful grown up way, you’ll probably find your chance of getting killed in the Philippines to be much less. Respect is almost as important as family in the Philippines. The Philippines is the land of respect. If you don’t understand that then you’ve missed a basic part of Filipino culture.

Is it Safe To Live In The Philippines?

I think it is safer to live in the Philippines than it is Memphis, Tn and most other places in the USA. Gangs don’t care who they kill or harm. All the gangs care about is the dollar. Have you looked into the gang mentality? Have you heard kids in Memphis say they don’t expect to live to the age of 25? I don’t carry a weapon in the Philippines but I did in the USA. I felt it was a duty to carry a firearm with the rampant killings in Memphis.

I feel very safe living in the Philippines. There are no facts to indicate to me that I should feel any other way. There are lots of foreigners telling me how dangerous the Philippines is but not a single one of them have been able to back that up with facts. So the question isn’t so much is it safe to live in the Philippines but is it safer to live in the Philippines than the West? When the question is presented that way, I think it is safe to live in the Philippines.

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Filed under: Crime In The PhilippinesExpats in the Philippines

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