Is it safe to travel in the Philippines?


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Any moving vehicle can encounter an accident. There are many factors that can leed to a mishap. Most of them could be avoided but ignorance, lacking knowledge, insufficient training and economical pressure make them happen every day.

The problem of the Philippines is the size of the country, the splitting into 7107 isolated islands and lacking infrastructure. There is also a cultural problem: Filipinos are fatalists and believers. They rather trust in God than in a regular vehicle check-up.

You may want to have a look into "Philippines Ferries " on Google. Click here! You will see many capsized ferries. Most of the pictures show damaged, capsized or sunken ferries. That's not the best promotion for local ferries.


On July 10, 2013 the European Union has lifted a three-year ban on Philippine Airlines flying into its airspace after the national carrier addressed safety concerns. Other airlines from the Philippines still have to pass re-evaluation of their safety standards.

On January 17, 2008, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the Philippines' rating to Category 2 from Category 1, since its Air Transportation Office (Philippines) (ATO) did not fully satisfy international safety standards.

Effective April 1, 2010, the European Union, following the FAA's lead, banned Philippine carriers from flying to Europe. The EU commission considered that the supervisory authority has not been able to implement and enforce the relevant safety standards, and decided therefore to ban from EU airspace all air carriers licensed in the Philippines until these deficiencies are corrected.

Effective April 1, 2010, the European Union, following the FAA's lead, banned Philippine carriers from flying to Europe. The EU commission considered that the supervisory authority has not been able to implement and enforce the relevant safety standards, and decided therefore to ban from EU airspace all air carriers licensed in the Philippines until these deficiencies are corrected.


The Aviation Herald lists these accidents and crashes since 2008:

Accident Cebu Pacific A320 at Davao on Jun 2nd 2013, runway excursion

Accident Philippine Airlines A320 at Kalibo on Aug 17th 2010, hydraulic failure after contacting airport fence

Crash ATMA AN12 at Mexico on Apr 21st 2010, fire on board

Accident PAL A333 en route on Mar 19th 2010, unruly passenger

Crash Victoria Air DC3 at Manila on Oct 17th 2009, engine fire

Zest Air MA60 at Caticlan on Jun 25th 2009, overran runway

Accident Zest Air MA60 at Caticlan on Jan 11th 2009, undershot runway, injuries

Accident Philippine Airlines DH8D at Catarman on Aug 11th 2008, hit soft spot on landing runway

Accident Qantas B744 near Manila on Jul 25th 2008, large hole in fuselage at FL290


This list shows that flying in the Philippines is rather safe. But this list does not show accidents and crashes of charter companies.

In 2012 an air charter company had two deadly crashes with 6 fatalities. One of the crashes happened a few hundred meters from our office.

Only 4 out of 9 charter and air-taxi companies do have a valid Air Operator's Certificate (AOC).

In spite of these accidents flying can be considered to be safe in the Philippines especially when you fly with one of the big companies. CAAP, the new Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines makes considerable progresses since the government and airlines increased pressure on the authority.


There had been one ferry company, Sulpicio Lines, involved in many accidents. These maritime disasters include MV Doña Paz on December 20, 1987, MV Doña Marilyn in 1988, MV Princess of the Orient on September 18, 1998, and MV Princess of the Stars on June 21, 2008. The latter three were caused by the vessels setting sail during violent weather conditions.

The company has sold almost all ships. Most of them were sold to breakers in China. Two of the ships still sail under a new company name. The new company PSACC concentrates today on cargo business.

Incidents on ferries happen nearly every day. In my 7 years in the Philippines I already experienced one fire on board (auxiliary power generator) and two machine stops on sea. One needed 2 hours and one needed 4 hours for repair.

I also saw one ferry that had run on ground near Cagayan de Oro. I still travel with ferries but sometimes I have a strange feeling when I see one of those floating rust buckets.


Here is a list of shipping accidents in the Philippines over the past 25 years:

June 13,2013: The ferry MV Lady of Mount Carmel left Pio Duran port in Albay province and sank three hours later near Burias Island, about 12 miles away across a strait, leaving 12 dead.

December 24, 2009: Twenty-seven people are missing as the wooden-hulled Catalyn B with 73 people on board collides with a fishing vessel at the mouth of Manila Bay.

September 6, 2009: Nine people killed after the Superferry 9 tilts sharply and then sinks near the southern city of Zamboanga.

May 2009: Wooden-hulled Commander 6 cracks open and sinks just south of Manila, leaving 12 dead.

December 2008: The ferry Maejan capsizes off the northern Philippines, leaving 30 dead.

November 2008: Don Dexter Kathleen, small wooden-hulled ferry, capsizes in freak winds off the central island of Masbate, leaving 42 dead.


June 2008: The Princess of the Stars ferry sails into a typhoon and tips over near the coast of Sibuyan island. Of the 850 on board, only 57 survive.

February 2004: Islamist militants firebomb the Superferry 14 near Manila Bay, leaving 116 dead.

April 2000: The cargo vessel Anahanda, overloaded with passengers, sinks off the southern island of Jolo. About 100 of the estimated 150 people on board die.

September 1998: The Princess of the Orient ferry sinks off Batangas City south of Manila. About 150 die.

December 1994: A Singaporean freighter hits the ferry Cebu City in Manila Bay, leaving about 140 dead.

October 1988: The Dona Marilyn ferry sinks off the central island of Leyte, leaving more than 250 dead.

December 1987: The Dona Paz ferry collides with an oil tanker off Mindoro island near Manila, leaving more than 4,000 dead in the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster.


While CAAP has improved the control of the airline industry in the Philippines, their road counter parts, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have nearly no control over safety of the vehicles and proficiency of the drivers.

There is no mandatory periodic safety check of vehicles in the Philippines. The only check a vehicle has to pass every year is the "smoke test" a kind of anti-pollution check of exhaust gases.

Any driver and especially professional drivers should have passed a formal training and a test for obtaining a driver's licence.

In November 2012 the LTO has published a new list of "Traffic Violation and Administrative Fees and Charges". The new list is a neat progress compared with the old one. It still contains some regulations that make you smile but the basic rules are OK.


Buses are on the top of the non-official traffic priority list. Long haul buses drive as hell. They drive through villages at 80 to 100 km/h. They overtake at any moment in any situation. The bus is the king of the road.

The very low fares, the stiff competition and the bad maintenance of vehicles and roads make the bus together with the jeepneys the most dangerous transports in the Philippines.

Road accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the Philippines after cardiovascular diseases, malignant neoplasms and pneumonia. This translates to around 36,000 fatalities every year and the trend is increasing. This number includes all road accidents, not only buses. A report of the Department of Health (DOH) is here.

No day passes without a bus accident somewhere in the country. And nearly no day passes by without fatalities in these accidents.


Bus accidents happen everywhere in the country. The most deadly accidents although happen in mountainous regions because buses that get off the road fall into ravines and roll down mountain slopes. Most accidents happen in the night or during bad weather conditions or a combination of the two reasons.

Some road traffic/accident figures:

13 million - Total driver's licenses issued
7,463,393 - Total motor vehicles registered
270,000km - Total length of roads nationwide
132,089 - Violators of the Seatbelt Use Act
79% - Road crash fatalities caused by driver error
11% - Road crash fatalities caused by defective vehicles
10% - Road crash fatalities caused by bad road conditions and ill-maintained roads
16% - Road crashes caused by trucks in the first half of 2013
12% - Road crashes caused by trucks in 2012
7.5% - Percentage of the Road Users Tax collected annually that will be allotted for road safety measures

Statistics by Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)