Volunteering in conservation projects around the world often means living in rural areas with limited access to medical facilities, as well as close contact to animals and the local population. As such, if you intend to volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines, you will want to familiarize yourself with the risks. We’ve tried to compile most concerns below, but you are of course welcome to get in touch with us if you have additional questions or concerns.
Is it really safe to volunteer in the Philippines?
There’s a thousand things that can kill you, and no matter how long you live, eventually one of them will. Most of these things can happen in the Philippines too. Going from one place to another in traffic has risks. You may fall and hurt yourself, or you can get sick. These things can happen anywhere in the world, and no-one can issue any guarantees. In addition to this, scuba diving also has inherent risks.
All this said, volunteering with us is a safe as we can reasonably make it. All staff members are skilled first aid providers (many are in fact first aid instructors,) we conduct our scientific diving under the strictest safety protocols, and our scuba training is second to none. We take great care in running a healthy and hygienic kitchen and the crime rate in our area is much, much lower than in any European city. We have contingency plans for every emergency you can think of, manmade or otherwise, and we conduct various safety and emergency drills every month. Our staff live and work on site, and there’s always someone who can help with big or small problems. Despite all these precautions, neither we not anyone else can guarantee you won’t get hurt or have an accident. We do however think it’s very, very unlikely.
The prudent thing to do is of course to have travel insurance. Many scuba divers use DAN (Diver’s Alert Network) as they provide, what is arguable the best diving insurance, but also covers general travel insurance on many of their plans. No matter your choice, we require all volunteers to have insurance.
How about terrorism?
There isn’t any. In 2017 some countries changed their respective travel advisories for the Philippines, because a terrorist plot was uncovered and prevented. Meanwhile in 2017, terrorist attacks actually did occur in Berlin, London, Stockholm, Brussel, Nice, Munich, Manchester, Barcelona, New York, Orlando, Marseille and Saint Petersburg. The list is sadly much longer today. No travel advisories were changed for these countries. There has still not been any acts of terrorism in the Philippines.
In this day and age nowhere and no-one is truly safe from terror, however we consider the likelihood of it happening here extremely remote. The wildest thing that has ever happened here, was that one of our employees had his price cow stolen!
Malaria and Dengue
There is no malaria on Negros Oriental. In fact, as of 2023 Malaria is almost completely eradicated in the whole of the Philippines, and only one of eighty-one provinces occasionally report cases still. The last province where malaria is still reported is on Palawan, so if you intend to visit Palawan after volunteering we suggest you check with current recommendations for that particular area.
To the best of our knowledge, no staff member or volunteer at MCP has ever gotten dengue fever. Is does occur on Negros Oriental, but it is rare. There are only a few cases reported annually in Zamboanguita. Dengue usually resolves within a few days and serious complications are uncommon in healthy adults. Most people however describe dengue as a very unpleasant tough flu. We recommend you wear some mosquito repellant – just in case.
Vaccinations and Other Health Concerns
As a volunteer you’re living in the woods, you wear sandals all the time, you ride boats to dive sites, you plant mangroves, and if you’re not careful, you can scratch yourself on coral when you scuba dive. Basically, there’s ample opportunity to get small cuts and scratches. You should definitely get inoculated against diphteria and tetanus. Most international volunteers have these two shots already.
Depending on your intended length of stay, it may be a good idea to also get immunization against hepatitis-A (you can get it in a combi-vaccine against hepatitis-B) and typhoid. There’s quite some uncertainty regarding Japanese encephalitis, but it’s believed to be endemic on all islands in the Philippines. Some, but not all doctors, recommend you get this vaccination also if you intend to stay for more than six weeks. We suggest you check with the health authorities of your home country, and follow their recommendations.
For budget conscious volunteers it’s possible to get inoculations cheaply in Dumaguete. The clinics may not look quite as you would expect, but the meds come at a fraction of the cost of most European countries.