Move announced by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday intensifies diplomatic standoff
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Picture used for illustrative purposes only.
Dubai: The temporary ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait is now be permanent, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday, amid a diplomatic tension between the two countries.
“The ban stays permanently. There will be no more recruitment (of OFWs for Kuwait),” Duterte told reporters at the international airport in Davao, shortly after his arrival from his trip in Singapore.
The president said he will instead ask other countries, including China, to consider recruiting more Filipinos, in order to accommodate those who are looking to work overseas..
Last February, the country’s Department of Labour and Employment (Dole) issued an order to enforce a ban on Filipinos heading to Kuwait for work, following a directive from Duterte. The move was in response to a series of incidents that led to the deaths and injuries of a number of OFWs in the Gulf state.
During his trip in Singapore on Saturday, Duterte reiterated his appeal for the 260,000 OFWs still working in Kuwait to just return home.
Kuwait is home to approximately 262,000 Filipinos, many are believed to be breadwinners in their families.
According to labour watchdog MIgrante International, Filipino expatriates can’t just abandon their jobs in Kuwait if there is no assurance that they can find similar employment opportunities in their home country or elsewhere.
“We cannot expect our OFWs to come home if the root cause of their migration – poverty due to landlessness and lack of decent jobs still exists and is actually worsening,” Migrante said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday.
“Mr president, Until and unless you stop exporting them continually and your promise of a better Philippines, a country where there are regular, decent and living jobs for all able-bodied Filipinos, is fulfilled, they will be forced to search for greener pasture in foreign lands, even if it is in Kuwait.”
Talking to reporters in Davao, Duterte said he can’t force every Filipino in Kuwait to leave, but “at the same time, I would like them to cherish and nurture their patriotism.”
“For Filipino household service workers, if your Kuwaiti employers want you to leave, then please come home. Your government will do its best to help your return,” the president was quoted by media reports as saying.
Duterte said he considers the OFWs’ situation in Kuwait as a “calamity,” adding that he will use government funds if he has to, just to encourage them to leave.
“The money is there… I can always use emergency fund. To me, it’s a calamity… If my countrymen are suffering, I would use it,” he was quoted by Philippine Star as saying.