Since time immemorial, people have migrated for work. Settling down in a country other than the one you were born in is not a phenomenon of the 21st Century.

However, the globalization of the world’s economies and the inexorable spread of corporations has led to a massive increase in corporations establishing regional representation. This, in turn, has significantly increased the incidence of migratory work. 

At the same time, the cost of living in many countries has spiraled and eroded the wealth of vast numbers of people. The erosion of wealth has a very direct knock-on effect on the affordability of retirement.

More and more people are driven to settle in countries with a lower cost of living. It’s no surprise that the majority of these developing low-cost retirement destinations are in Asia.

There has been a marked change to societal views on cross-cultural or mixed marriage on the social side. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a steady increase in such marriages. Inevitably one of the partners in such a marriage will relocate to the other partner’s country. Sometimes both relocate to a neutral country. 

All of these scenarios apply to the Philippines. More and more foreigners are drawn to the Philippines, often permanently. For many of them, one of the most important considerations they will have to address is their safety.

The Philippines has a history of conflict and rampant levels of crime and corruption. Although the fight against crime has largely been successful and civil conflict is now somewhat isolated, there are still areas considered unsafe, especially for foreigners. Countries still routinely post travel advisories for various locations in the Philippines.  

While there may be parts of the country that it would be advisable to avoid, there are also many parts of the perfectly safe country. Many parts of the country are wonderful to live in, where good infrastructure and modern facilities go hand in hand with a rich cultural history and stunning natural beauty. And where personal safety can almost be taken for granted.

We will discuss some of these places and highlight key attributes and some personal safety and quality of life indicators. 

1) Makati City

Makati City

Makati City is one of the sixteen cities that make up Metro Manila or the National Capital Region of the Philippines. 

It is the financial and commercial hub of the Philippines. Many multinational and local companies are headquartered in Makati. It was also, until quite recently, the seat of the Philippines Stock Exchange.

Makati City is a highly developed metropolis with a vibrant and cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is home to an assortment of luxury hotels and first-class restaurants. It is also one of the foremost arts and culture centers in the Philippines. Not surprisingly, the majority of expatriates in the Philippines reside in Makati City. 

The current population of Makati City is estimated to be around 650,000. This is calculated based on the last known population in 2015. The population growth rate has been steadily increasing since 1990, which corroborates Makati City’s popularity as a place to live. 

Interestingly, the daytime population of Makati almost doubles on working days. This, thanks to a large influx of visitors who work or shop in the city.  This is another indication of people’s positive perception of the city. 

Law enforcement has been stringent, which places Makati City reasonably high in overall personal safety. According to the global database numbeo.com, Makati City’s Crime Index, at 39.13, is considered low. The Quality-of-Life Index is 89.89, classified as Moderate, and the Safety Index of 60.87 is rated High. 

2) Baguio

Baguio

Baguio City is known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Thanks to its location at an elevation of roughly 1,500 m above sea level, the climate is somewhat milder. With extremely high rainfall and humidity constant at 87%, pine trees flourish here. Hence, Baguio City’s other nickname, the City of Pines.

Whilst the city is highly commercialized, it still presents a calmer lifestyle. It is a popular vacation destination with a moderate climate and offers various outdoor attractions and activities. Baguio City also boasts a rich cultural and gastronomic scene.

The city’s estimated population is in the region of 380,000. The annual population growth rate has trended lower over the last 15 years. However, in 2015, it was still relatively high at an estimated 1.62% per annum.

Due to joint crime-fighting efforts between law enforcement and the citizenry. The numbeo.com Crime Index is 39.92. This is considered low. The Quality-of-Life Index is moderate at 105.58, and the Safety Index at 60.08 is in the High category.

3) Lipa City

Lipa City

Less than 100 km from Metro Manila, Lipa City lies on the shores of Taal Lake in the Batangas Province. The city is nicknamed the Little Rome of the Philippines owing to a large number of historic churches.

Lipa City is situated just an hour’s drive from the coast at Batangas Bay with its pristine white sand beaches. Coupled with its relatively mild climate proximity to Metro Manila, this is one of the growth points in the Philippines at the moment. 

This is further supported by the city’s inclusion in the Top Ten Next Wave Cities list. These cities have been nominated as key prospective development points for the IT and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries. 

Lipa City and the surrounding areas of Batangas Province have an abundance of scenic beauty and offer a wealth of outdoor and adventure options. It Is also, therefore, a fairly popular tourist destination.  With an extensive road network, it serves as a transport hub for tourism in the province.

The projected population for 2021 is just over 400,000. The annual population growth rate is high and has been on the rise. At 3.24%, the rate for Lipa City was well over double the national rate. 

The numbeo.com indices for Crime and Safety are 36.81 and 63.19, respectively. Numbeo.com does not have sufficient data to calculate an overall quality of life index. Whilst the increase in crime levels over the last three years is considered high, residents’ concern over personal safety is still low.  

4) Santa Rosa City

Santa Rosa City

The City of Santa Rosa is located in Laguna Province, about 40 km south of Metro Manila. A part of the city runs along the shore of Laguna Lake. The commute to Makati City or Metro Manila ranges from 40 to 60 minutes. An increasing number of people are choosing the more stress-free, suburban lifestyle offered by Santa Rosa City rather than the crowded rat-race of the big cities.

Nicknamed the Detroit of the Philippines, the city houses some motor manufacturing plants. The city also boasts several top educational institutions, including the prestigious University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños and De La Salle University.

As a gateway to numerous tourist destinations further south, much development money is spent on commercial real estate and tourism infrastructure and facilities. For example, Santa Rosa City is home to the acclaimed theme park, Enchanted Kingdom.

Despite these substantial developments, the city has maintained a large part of its historic rural character. The appeal of numerous natural attractions nearby, together with the continued development of quality residential and commercial clusters, is drawing more and more people in.

The 2021 population is estimated at almost 460,000. The population growth rate was fairly constant from 2000 to 2015, at well over 4%. 

Quality of life data is not available. The Crime and Safety indices, however, are both moderate at 54.96 and 45.04, respectively. Although residents’ perception of increased crime rates overall is high, the outlook on personal safety is still moderately positive.     

5) Cebu

Cebu

Cebu City is a bustling port city located in the southern half of the archipelago. Originally established by the Spanish in the 16th century, the city has retained much of its history. The most famous of these landmarks include the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and Fort San Pedro. 

The city is well connected with access by land, sea, and air. As such, it is an important transport hub for numerous surrounding islands. The port is the largest domestic port in the Philippines. With 140,000 ship calls in 2018, it handled 22 million passengers, almost 44 million tons of cargo, and close and just short of a million TEUs of container traffic. 

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport serves the city, and there is a substantial ongoing development of several major motorways to improve road access and ease congestion. 

Cebu City is home to several leading universities and a well-developed economic zone. There are numerous natural attractions nearby. The city has much to offer in arts, culture, and gastronomy. All in all, it is a city that provides abundantly for the varied needs of all types of people. 

The population of Cebu City is projected to fall just short of a million in 2021. The growth rate decelerated over the last decade to an estimated 1.4% in 2021.

Cebu City has a moderate quality of life index, coming in at 70.96. In terms of Crime and Safety, the indices are also both moderate at 51.86 and 48.14, respectively. Residents’ perceptions of crime and personal safety are moderate. 

6) Davao City

Davao City

Davao City, nicknamed the King City of the South, is one of the southernmost cities in the Philippines. It is the commercial and industrial heart of Mindanao Province. Davao is the largest city in the Philippines by surface area and the third-largest by population.

Agriculture is the biggest contributor to Davao City’s economy. Being a major producer of cacao, the chocolate industry has developed in recent years. This has earned Davao City the title of “Chocolate Capital of the Philippines.” It also has the dubious honor of holding the “Durian Capital of the Philippines” title.

From a broader economic viewpoint, Davao is home to the offices of several high-profile multinational companies. There are several acclaimed universities, highly developed infrastructure, and a good mix of urban facilities and nature. On the lifestyle side, Davao City does not play the second fiddle. Options abound for art, culture, and recreational activities. 

Davao City’s projected 2021 population stands at 1.87 million. The growth rate has fluctuated between 2.4% and 2.25% over the last two decades. This is well above the national population growth rate.

In contrast to Mindanao Province’s abysmal reputation for personal safety, Davao City ranks second in South East Asia on numbeo.com.  With a low Crime Index of 27.84 and a high Safety Index of 72.16, the Quality-of-Life Index averages out at a moderate 99.34. Residents’ outlook on crime and personal safety is very positive.

Some also regard Davao City as the cleanest and most livable city in the Philippines. This makes Davao City the most highly recommended city in the Philippines to settle in. 

7) Bacolod

Bacolod

Bacolod, also known as The City of Smiles, is the capital of the Negros Occidental Province, located in the southern half of the Philippines. Bacolod’s economy is expanding rapidly in the IT and BPO sectors. It ranks third in the Top Ten New Wave Cities list and has been declared a Center of Excellence for these sectors. Agriculture is also a big role player in the city’s economy.

Bacolod City is an important sports city that has hosted several major Asian football tournaments and domestic tournaments in various sporting codes. The city also plays host to several renowned cultural and spiritual festivals.

The population projection for 2021 is a shade over 628,000. The annual growth rate has been fairly constant at just under 2% per annum since the 1990s. This is somewhat higher than the national rate of 1.34%.

Bacolod City was named the “Best place to live in the Philippines” by Money Sense Magazine in 2008 and as the most livable urban center in the country in 2017 and 2019 by The Manila Times. 

While the Crime and Safety indices are both moderate at 49.67 and 50.33, there is insufficient data to publish a Quality-of-Life Index. 

8) Iloilo

Iloilo

Iloilo is situated a stone’s throw from Bacolod City across the Guimaras Strait in the Western Visayas Region. 

Iloilo is an eclectic mix of the historic and the modern. The city was founded in 1566 and served as the last capital of the Spanish Empire in Asia during the latter part of the 19th century. Much of the city’s historic charm has been retained and blended with modern commercial and residential developments. The result is a city that is an important economic hub in the region yet still a sought-after and laid-back paradise for residents.

The population is expected to reach 478,000 in 2021. The annual growth rate has been steadily declining for decades and is now below the national growth rate at 1.08%. 

Known as the City of Love, Iloilo has been nominated as one of the safest cities in Southeast Asia. The Crime and Safety Indices both fall in the moderate range at 42.61 and 57.39, respectively. A Quality-of-Life index has not been published as insufficient data is available.  The public outlook on Crime and Safety is moderate. 

9) Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa

Puerto Princesa lies on Palawan Island in the southwestern quadrant of the archipelago. It is one of the most popular tourist areas of the Philippines. The city is known for limestone caves and a world-renowned underground river. 

Sealife is abundant around the city and has earned the city the tag of The Eco-Tourism Center of the Philippines and natural wonders. Tourism has taken off since the 1990s, and the city has seen a major development in related infrastructure and facilities.

Tourism spends in the city and environs has provided a boost to the economy. It has also created an explosion in the population. The projected population of around 300,000 in 2021 is more than triple the 1990 figure.

Puerto Princesa is the second-largest city geographically. It is also the least densely populated at just 110 residents per square kilometer. 

Thanks, in part, to the natural resources and sparser population, it is ranked among the cleanest and safest places in the Philippines. It constantly vies with Davao City for the top spot. The Crime Index is a low 36.83 with a corresponding high Safety Index of 63.17. The outlook on crime and safety is generally moderate to positive. There is insufficient data for a Quality-of-Life Index result. 

To sum up

Based on all the data and other background details presented here, Davao City clearly tops the list of the safest and best places in the Philippines to move to. Following not too far behind are Bacolod City, Iloilo, and Puerto Princesa, with the rest of the field just a little further back. 

All things considered, taking into account many other salient considerations every person wanting to come and live in the Philippines will find an option in this list that is a near perfect fit for them.  

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