Potentially one of the most beguiling areas of the Philippines, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is a patchwork of several predominantly Muslim provinces in the western part of the island. Created in 1989, the regional government (based in Cotabato), has the power to levy taxes and apply Shariah law to Muslims. Despite this autonomy, the region remains extremely poor and the epicentre for anti-government protest – Philippine Tourism authorities, most Filipinos (and the US, UK and Australian governments) usually advise foreigners to avoid the region.
The situation on the ground is less clear-cut. Actual incidents are rare, but those that do occur often end in tragedy. Kidnapping is still a lucrative business on the island of Basilan, the northernmost island in the Sulu chain, and if any unequivocal recommendation can be given it is that you shouldn’t go there.
It’s best to seek the advice of the local tourism office before visiting any of the following locations, and where possible, to arrange a local guide when travelling. Avoid travelling at night altogether.