Internet users in the Philippines have generally enjoyed freedom of access and expression at a level above their peers in Southeast Asia. This right is upheld in the Philippines’ constitution which deems it essential for each citizen.
At the moment there seems to be a battle between an increasingly authoritarian Philippines government wishing to impose greater restrictions and ordinary citizens trying to reclaim their rights. The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 tried to regulate the web with far greater scrutiny but other arms of the state are providing a necessary balancing force.
To remain safe and secure on the web in the Philippines we recommend you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). It’s a handy piece of software that maintains your anonymity online by encrypting all the traffic flowing to and from your device and routing it via an intermediary server outside your country. Nosy hackers and surveillance agencies are kept at bay.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for the Philippines:
A VPN is also an excellent choice for foreign expatriates living in the Philippines wishing to access local content from back home like BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, Sky Sports, or BeIN sports. Filipinos traveling abroad can also use a VPN to access channels like SkyCable and Cablelink.
Our list of the best VPNs for the Philippines is based on the following factors:
- Speed and stability of service
- Large network of servers across the world for expatriates to unblock content
- Strong encryption parameters to maintain privacy and anonymity
- Ease of use
- Apps for Android and iOS
ExpressVPN ranks as one of our top VPN services because of it’s user-first approach, minimalist design, and a commitment to speed and security. The layout is simple and intuitive with hardly any downtime.
It offers a large network of over 1500 servers spread across 94 countries including some in the Philippines. These options make it a handy choice for expatriates living in the country as well as local residents traveling abroad who wish to keep in touch with local content.
Privacy concerns are eased by ExpressVPN’s policy of not storing any traffic logs at all. There’s a sliver of metadata retention pertaining to date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used. Your individual IP address won’t be logged.
If you’d still like to remain completely anonymous, it’s possible to sign up with a burner email account and pay via Bitcoin. This means your digital footprint is largely hidden.
Encryption protocols are stringent. ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES-CBC with the utilization of both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. An internet kill switch temporarily halts all web traffic if the connection drops unexpectedly.
The service unlocks geo-restricted content on Netflix without any issues. It works with Hulu and BBC iPlayer as well and supports torrents.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
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Read our review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN may not boast the same kind of impeccable design that’s a hallmark of Express, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not a top-tier service. The company has been around for over a decade and that experience has helped it deliver a winning product when ranked on both speed and privacy.
It’s another fervent adopter of a completely zero-logs policy which means it retains zero information about user sessions, traffic, or timestamps.
This policy has thwarted attempts by surveillance agencies to identify users and obtain data about them. NordVPN admits at least two instances where it received official requests for data but it says there was no way to comply. People valuing privacy should rest easy. The fact that it’s incorporated in Panama – out of the reach of any data retention laws – is also another feel-good factor.
The company operates 1081 servers in 61 countries making it a robust choice for an entire range of web activity. In fact, it’s one of the few VPN companies that helps you pick a server specifically for your requirements – this could be anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, or dedicated IP.
There’s no option to connect to a server in the Philippines, but the large network of servers in nearby countries should compensate for that fact.
NordVPN works with many online streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It supports torrenting.
The company encrypts internet traffic via the 256-bit AES protocol by default and uses 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. The specifications are some of the sturdiest in the VPN business so your privacy and anonymity are pretty much assured.
There’s support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Here’s our in-depth review of NordVPN.
IPVanish doesn’t compromise on any facets of a premium VPN service – and is mindful of maintaining user privacy and anonymity while offering great speeds.
It’s also another VPN provider that declines to hold information on users. The only time it stores any details is when an account is registered for the first time. After that user activity remains hidden – this includes things like session history, choice of servers, and bandwidth.
Tough security parameters mean your data should remain protected. IPVanish leverages 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The latter feature means that even if hackers break into your account (which is an unlikely scenario in the first place), it’ll be impossible for them to decrypt past sessions and uncover your web history.
An internet kill switch is included within the system architecture and adds an additional layer of security. This feature means all traffic will be frozen temporarily if there’s a drop in connection.
With over 850 servers spread across 60 countries, a suitable connection is never out of reach. IPVanish also has two options to connect to servers in the Philippines if you’re a local resident traveling abroad trying to get an IP address from the country.
IPVanish doesn’t unlock content on Netflix or Hulu but does work with BBC iPlayer seamlessly. It also permits torrenting on all servers.
There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Many users find it an excellent option for Kodi because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
Read our review of IPVanish.
Cyberghost Pro doesn’t have a massive selection of servers but it’s relatively cheap and does the job especially well for beginner users who don’t want a ton of customizable options. Speeds are fast, there’s an easy-to-use interface, and privacy standards are stringent. It’s not earth shattering but it’s not bad at the same time.
Having said that, there’s really no problem with the kind of service it offers right now. With over 850 servers spread across 27 countries, there are enough options for an adequate connection. Currently, there’s no possible route to obtain an IP address from the Philippines but this might change in the near future.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Cyberghost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included too which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops.
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Here’s our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
VyprVPN is a mature VPN that’s been in business for over seven years. Its encryption standards are among the best in the market–the company circumvents even the toughest blockades that governments impose.
Some users might be a bit worried by its logging policy. VyprVPN says it stores “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.”
But the company insists that data is retained for only 30 days and is used to improve the service. It adds that it will not log traffic details or content of any communications.
At the same time, it’s unlikely that your private data will ever be exposed. VyprVPN’s encryption standards are incredible – it’s very popular with users in China where it easily unblocks the Great Firewall. This means that the proprietary tech deployed by the company outsmarts thousands of government engineers that work around the clock to ensure content remains blocked. That’s no trifling matter.
Furthermore, VyprVPN owns and manages entire data centers – as opposed to other services that choose to rent or outsource to third-party operators. That helps it manage all the traffic ensuring stability and minimal downtime.
VyprVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included. It’s also able to unlock content on Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon™ protocol which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
There are over 700 servers, including a few in the Philippines.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
What about a free VPN?
There are definitely several free VPNs lurking around on the interwebs but don’t expect the same speeds and encryption standards that paid options offer.
Free VPNs usually monetize by deluging you with all sorts of invasive advertisements, inserting tracking cookies, and selling your data. There have also been instances of services hijacking your bandwidth and turning you into a foot soldier in a massive botnet army.
Some of the VPNs listed in the article do offer a free trial. That’s a handy option if you’re not sure whether to opt for a VPN completely. But we recommend you avoid the random ones that exist on the internet. They’re probably too good to be true.
Some VPNs to avoid
One of the implicit parts of the social contract between a VPN and the end user is a commitment to safeguard privacy at all costs. After all that’s a major reason why people opt to use the software in the first place. The VPNs mentioned in this article don’t have any documented cases of willingly handing over user data but there several unscrupulous ones around that will do so without a second thought. We recommend you avoid such services.
Here are three examples of VPN providers that we believe you should run away from:
There’s evidence to suggest that VPN provider PureVPN collaborated with law enforcement agencies to help identify one of its users. PureVPN and the FBI joined forces after an unnamed 24-year-old woman filed a complaint about falling prey to an online blackmailing plot. She suspected her roommate, Ryan Lin, to be culpable.
The FBI traced the activity back to PureVPN, who then used its logs to identify the culprit. Ryan was arrested. At the time, however, PureVPN had a ‘no-logs’ policy which puts a real question mark on how ethical the company might have been.
Israel-based Hola once had an impressive user base of 50 million. But despite this goodwill and trust, it chose to use it for nefarious purposes and eventually turned its critical mass into a massive botnet. Users were deployed as pawns in a larger battle, completely without their knowledge. A part of their internet bandwidth was leveraged for attacks on other sites, promoting copyrighted content, and pornography.
That’s messed up and we strongly urge you to avoid this sham service.
3. Hotspot Shield
You might have come across Hotspot Shield while browsing the web or searching for VPNs. It’s a fairly popular service because it doesn’t require any upfront payment. But that’s where the charm ends.
Last month, a privacy advocacy group alledged that Hotspot Shield inserted tracking cookies in user data without their knowledge and sold it for advertising purposes. Additionally, it was accused of redirecting e-commerce traffic to partner domains – in layman terms this means legitimate requests like macys.com were forcefully navigated to affiliate sites instead, where the VPN company would earn a commission if a sale went through.
The accusations haven’t been proven in a court of law yet – the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the matter. However, it follows a similar tale to other free VPN services. Our recommendation is to avoid Hotspot Shield until they are able to prove their innocence.
We don’t condone the use of VPNs to commit acts expressly forbidden by a country’s laws – it seems like that’s what both Cody Kretsinger and Chris Dupuy were doing. However, we do believe that VPN providers need to be open and transparent with users. Willingly handing over data and hijacking HTTP requests are serious concerns and a violation of ethics.
How do I access pornography in the Philippines?
Filipinos are voracious adopters of pornographic content, with residents in the country spending more time on adult sites per session than any other country. However, accessing said material is banned under local laws with the government recently blocking a litany of such sites. In February, local ISPs were directed by the Philippines National Telecommunications Commission to prevent people from downloading and streaming porn.
The easiest way to circumvent this issue is by signing up for one of the VPNs mentioned in this list, connecting to a server in Europe or North America, and navigating to the sites you want to visit. Your identity will remain hidden.
What’s the internet landscape in the Philippines like?
The Philippines generally ranks favorably on the issue of free speech and online freedoms as compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. Advocacy body Freedom House says the internet landscape in the country is “free”, noting that users enjoy unrestricted access to content and rights to free speech guaranteed under local laws.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled against certain tenets of the Cybercrime Prevention Act which would have allowed the Department of Justice carte blanche authority to block content without obtaining a court order. One of the few things restricted is online libel and defamation, but other than that Filipinos can write, blog, and participate in discussions online without a significant threat of blowback.
However, there are areas of concern. Current president Duterte’s crackdown on criminals and open encouragement of extrajudicial killings seem to have instilled a sense of fear across the country. Freedom House notes that digital activism seems to have decreased since his election – although it doesn’t proffer any hard data to substantiate this claim.
Violence against journalists is also an issue. Since 1992, at least 77 local journalists have been killed in relation to their work. A poor rate of conviction has drawn criticism from human rights bodies with some current journalists also receiving threatening messages via digital mediums. President Duterte hasn’t done much to allay concerns either – saying journalists getting paid to attack or defend politicians deserve to be killed.