President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law on the island of Mindanao after government forces clashed with armed militants.

Key points:

  • Foreign nationals on the island of Mindanao are urged to monitor the security situation and develop contingency plans to leave affected areas if necessary. Those in need of immigration services should expect the possibility of delays and may wish to contact their home country’s embassy or consulate for the latest information before traveling to government offices.
  • Areas in the western portion of the island may be particularly dangerous. Government forces clashed with militants in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur Province, prompting Duterte to impose martial law. The fighting led to the deaths of at least two soldiers and one police officer, according to press reports.

Background: Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines, and Davao City, in southeastern Mindanao, is the country’s largest city outside of Metropolitan Manilla. The island and the Sulu Archipelago to its west have long been security concerns. The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens in December of 2016 to avoid “all non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago and … to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the island of Mindanao, due to continued terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings.” The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office took note of the clashes Tuesday and advised “against all travel to western Mindanao,” saying those in affected areas should “remain indoors, monitor media reporting, and follow the advice of the Philippine authorities.”

BAL Analysis: Martial law on Mindanao is expected to last for at least 60 days. The immigration impacts are hard to predict, but it seems clear that significant portions of the island are not safe. Foreign nationals should seriously consider delaying nonessential travel to Mindanao until further notice. Those on Mindanao should exercise caution, especially in areas considered particularly dangerous. Companies with personnel on Mindanao should account for all their employees. U.S. citizens may wish to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that provides updated security information and allows Americans to register their trips abroad with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact

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