Decision to lift or not to lift total ban of OFWs rests on the President, Bello says

Published February 25, 2018, 4:19 PM

by iManila Developer

By Leslie Ann Aquino

Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the decision on whether to lift or not the total deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait is up to President Duterte.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III speaks before the media during a press conference with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Friday. The government has imposed a ban on deployment of Filipino workers in Kuwait following the death of domestic helpers due to alleged abuses of their employers. (Keith Bacongco)
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III (Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The President will be the one to decide on that (lifting),” said Bello.

Bello said as of now they are waiting if the Kuwaiti government will sign the Memorandum of Agreement on the protection of OFWs.

“If they will do that the President might lift the deployment ban,” he said.

The DOLE already sent a Technical Working Group to Kuwait to finalize the Memorandum of Understanding with the Gulf State for the safety, security and welfare of Filipino workers.

Undersecretary Claro Arellano, the head of the group, revealed that one of the salient features of the proposed MOA which they will push in their negotiations with their Kuwaiti counterparts, is to allow OFWs to have their passports in their possessions.

The labor chief said this following the arrest of the employers of OFW Joanna Demafelis, the Filipina found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.

The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait earlier reported the arrest of Demafelis’ employer Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, Thursday.

His wife Mona, a Syrian national, remains in custody in Damascus.

The two are the principal suspects in the murder of the 29-year-old Demafelis.

“We want them to allow our OFWs in Kuwait to hold their passport. Or at least, if they will not be allowed to hold their passports, they be deposited to our Philippine Labor Attaché in coordination with the Philippines Embassy,” Arellano said earlier.

“Another feature of this MOA is to allow our OFWs to use their cellphones to communicate with their families and the government,” he added.

It was on February 12, when the Department of Labor and Employment formally issued an order totally banning the deployment of all OFWs to Kuwait amid the series of reports involving abuse and death of OFWs there.

“In pursuit of national interest, and with the advent of the series of reports involving abuse and death of OFWs in Kuwait, a total ban on deployment of all OFWs to Kuwait pursuant to the directive of the President of the Philippines is hereby enforced,” read the Administrative Order.