Government strictly implements Duterte order to halt ‘new deployments’ to Kuwait

It remains unclear if the government will totally prohibit sending workers to Kuwait to include those who had already been working in the emirate for years

Manila: The Philippines government has started to strictly implement an order from President Rodrigo Duterte to stop accepting new workers destined for Kuwait as the first batch of workers repatriated from the Gulf emirate started to arrive.

“Our efforts to protect our kababayans (compatriots) will not end with the imposition of deployment bans or the repatriation of our workers in countries where they are prone to maltreatment,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano said in a statement on Monday.

Last week, Duterte immediately ordered a ban on sending workers to Kuwait as he expressed outrage over reports on the killing of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, a 29-year-old Filipina maid whose remains were found inside a freezer at an apartment in Kuwait.

Cayetano and Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labour and Employment will implement the President’s instructions to ensure the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipino workers not just in Kuwait but also in other parts of the world.

It is understood, that the deployment ban will only cover “new contracts” as Bello had stated before. It remains unclear if the government will totally prohibit sending workers to Kuwait to include those who had already been working in the emirate for years.

This morning, officials of the foreign affairs and labour departments, led by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, received the first batch of 377 workers who were repatriated on three commercial flights that left Kuwait on Sunday afternoon.

Arriola said the Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Kuwait are now rushing to repatriate as many as 10,000 overstaying Filipinos who are expected to avail an amnesty programme arranged with the Kuwaiti Government.

“The Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Kuwait expect that more than 10,000 Filipinos who have overstayed their visas are qualified for repatriation,” Arriola said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Filipino workers in Kuwait had been given the option to return home. Those who opt for repatriation be given 5,000 pesos (Dh358) financial assistance and a further 20,000 pesos assistance for alternative livelihood.

“The missions all over the Middle East in particular have been instructed to find alternative employment for our kababayans who have opted for voluntary repatriation from Kuwait. We are particularly keen on finding alternative employment in countries such Oman and Bahrain, both of which are signatories to the relevant ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention that protects migrant workers,” Roque said in a press briefing on Monday at the presidential palace.

To offset the job displacement of Filipino workers in Kuwait, he said Bello is finalising the mechanism by which the Philippines can send workers to China as an alternative destination.

“That’s being worked out. And I hopefully, there will be bilateral agreements soon,” he said.

Unlike in countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the deployment of Filipino workers are not covered by any bilateral agreement that binds the host country and the Philippines from ensuring protection and welfare for the expatriate labour force.

Senator Ralph Recto said that if a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait would be enforced, the Philippines stand to lose 40 billion pesos in annual remittance of from Filipinos there.

“If they (Filipino workers in Kuwait) were a company, the 40 billion pesos remittance puts them in the top 40 of biggest earners for the government in terms of gross revenues,” Recto said.

“This financial contribution to their homeland makes them deserving of government care, whether repatriation or legal help if they are still there, and employment and livelihood assistance once they are home for good,” Recto said.

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