Duterte to announce stance on row with Kuwait

Manama: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is to announce a “personally crafted” position on its diplomatic row with Kuwait on Sunday, the presidential palace announced.

“I confirm he will announce the Philippines’ position personally during his arrival statement in Davao on Sunday. He wants to announce it on Philippine soil,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Singapore where the President attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.

“I have to say the President, being a lawyer with 30 years of executive experience, certainly had a very different reaction to the controversy. It was a course of action that was not specifically recommended by anyone,” Roque said, quoted by ABS-CBN News.

Roque said he did not know what will happen to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the protection of Filipino workers in the northern Arabian Gulf state that was, according to officials in Manila and Kuwait City, being finalised by the two sides.

“I do not know anymore what will happen to the MOU, I could only surmise. I do not know, everything is up in the air now with the Kuwaiti ambassador being recalled and [the] Philippine ambassador being declared persona non grata,” he said.

Remarks by Filipino officials in Manila and the ambassador in Kuwait about the deployment of a team made up mainly of embassy staff and the engagement of its members in various operations cracked the recent rapprochement.

The Philippines said the team was deployed to rescue house workers in distress who needed prompt assistance and without the need to wait for a response from the local police. Manila released a video showing some of the operations.

However, Kuwait saw the clandestine operations as a violation of diplomatic norms and of its sovereign rights.

The foreign ministry summoned the ambassador twice, and handed him protest notes.

The government expressed its displeasure with the remarks and the operations, but lawmakers called for stronger actions that would reflect Kuwait’s anger.

The Philippines and the ambassador apologised; Manila also assured Kuwait that it “will follow their laws.”

However, Kuwait declared the ambassador persona non grata and gave him one week to leave. It also recalled its ambassador in Manila for consultations. The police arrested some of the staff involved in the clandestine operations and seized two vehicles.

In Manila, Filipino officials said that Duterte was surprised with Kuwait’s decision to expel the ambassador.

According to the Philippine government, over 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, most of whom are domestic helpers.

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