Petty crime rate in Port Barton has been on a rise. Getting your room burgled has become a commonplace. So far there has been no terrorism attacks in Palawan but the island is on military alert. The village, however, still is tranquil and you are safe as long as you keep away from drugs.
Just in the last week (April 2017) I met four different people whose hotel rooms or tents were raided in search of valuables. Usually the thieves act very fast and they nick whatever falls into their hands, very often leaving behind more valuable things.
Report any robbery to the Barangay. Barangay is the smallest administrative unit and, hence there is no police unit in Port Barton, they do part of the investigative job. It is located in the basketball court, just next to the Tourist Office. You will most likely be advised to go to San Vicente to report the case to the Police. I am not sure there is much point in doing so unless you lost your passport. The chances to catch the thieves are low and most of the insurance companies will reject your claim if you did not keep your valuables in a properly locked room, in a safe box, of which they want to read in a Police report.
In February 2017 there has been one case of rape. The case however was not reported by the victim but by the victim’s boyfriend and has never been fully proved by the girl. The couple left the Philippines without bringing charges or following up on the initial report. Knowing that very often the rape victims do not want to talk about what happened we are not implying that the crime was not committed. All we are saying is that the case is not hundred percent clear.
The Philippines is predominantly Christian but there is a sizeable Muslim population in the autonomous Muslim region in the South of Mindanao and many Muslims in the South of Palawan. In the past years the extremist Muslim movements have emerged with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) being the most terrifying. President Duterte believes that the Islamic State (IS) is trying to gain a foothold in Mindanao, where many towns are impoverished and underdeveloped. In February 2017 their activists beheaded a German hostage and two Canadian captives suffered the same fate last year. They were executed when deadlines to pay ransom expired. There are some 25 people kept captive in the Jolo Island, the ASG stronghold. In April 2017 a heavily armed group of 10 terrorists came to Bohol to scout for more victims. The security forces clashed with them in Napo. Five terrorists and four troopers were killed in the clash. President Duterte said he wanted the remaining four terrorists dead.
Due to the events in Bohol, the additional security measures have been implemented in Palawan. The higher alert might be also related to President’s order to deploy military forces in the Spartly Islands.
None of this can be seen or sensed in Port Barton. It remains a very quiet and “forgotten” place. You may sometimes spot fully armed soldiers strolling the beach but they used to do it a year ago, too. There is a naval base just outside Port Barton and The Philippines is the country in which shop security staff are armed as if they were to leave for a battlefield in about two minutes from now.
Tourists can put themselves and the local people at danger by trying to buy marijuana or any other drugs. President Rodrigo Duterte who came into office in June 2016 won his presidential campaign with a promise he would eradicate drug related crimes in the first six months of his presidency. The war on drugs has taken a serious dimension with thousands of dealers and users “surrendering” to the police and with the President naming publicly well known politicians and police officers for their involvement in organized crime related to drugs distribution.
The relevant law is known as Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Under the provisions of this act Marijuana is a dangerous drug and
- any person possessing less than 5 grams of Marijuana can be sentenced for twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from Three hundred thousand pesos (P300,000.00) to Four hundred thousand pesos (P400,000.00).
- any person selling drugs faces the penalty of imprisonment ranging from twelve (12) years and one (1) day to twenty (20) years and a fine ranging from One hundred thousand pesos (P100,000.00) to Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00)
- owner of a place where the drug was sold or used faces the penalty of life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from Five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000.00) to Ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00)
Having a joint in the beach may cost you 12 years in Philippine prison while local owner of a hotel in which you stayed and smoked could be even given a death sentence. With the current hysteria over drugs that is not a very unlikely scenario.