Philippine labour visit to Kuwait cancelled

Presidency is leaving it to foreign affairs department to handle diplomatic initiatives

Manama: A scheduled trip to Kuwait by labour and foreign affairs officials to settle disputes has been cancelled, reports in Manila said.

“Everything is now up to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). We defer on all diplomatic initiatives to the DFA,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was quoted by The Star newspaper as saying.

Roque made the remark a week after Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he and other officials were flying to Kuwait on Monday to discuss the diplomatic row with their Kuwaiti counterparts.

The presidency is leaving it to the DFA to handle all diplomatic initiatives, including the issues between the Philippines and Kuwait that stemmed from the conditions of migrant workers, Roque said.

The meeting between Philippine and Kuwaiti officials in Kuwait was scheduled to discuss the proposed Memorandum of Understanding that would improve labour relations between the two countries.

Asked if the trip would go ahead as planned, Roque, who was supposed to be part of the Philippine delegation to Kuwait, said: “None, there’s no such trip.”

Relations between Kuwait and the Philippines plummeted dramatically after staff from the Philippine embassy in Kuwait carried out clandestine operations to help domestic workers flee the homes of their employers.

In the operations, they used diplomatic vehicles to transport the workers to the airport. Videos of the operations were posted online by Philippine officials.

Infuriated, Kuwait said the operations were a breach of its laws and sovereignty and a violation of diplomatic norms, and officials arrested members of the Philippines diplomatic staff and seized two vehicles.

The Philippines later apologised in an attempt at damage control but Kuwait declared Ambassador Renato Villa persona non grata and expelled him.

Before relations plunged, Kuwait and the Philippines were negotiating a labour agreement that could have resulted in the lifting of a ban issued in February on Filipinos leaving to work in Kuwait.

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