By Genalyn Kabiling
SEOUL — President Duterte is planning to visit Kuwait “even just a few hours” to express gratitude for signing a labor protection agreement for Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
The President said he appreciates Kuwait’s understanding after granting his appeal to provide additional protection to Filipino workers such as seven hours of sleep, access to cellphone and passport, and protection from abuse.
“I think I’ll go there. I’d like to thank the Kuwaiti government for understanding us and keeping their faith us and practically gave to all of my demands,” Duterte said during the meeting with the Filipino community in South Korea.
“They all agreed and if true, which I have no doubt the Kuwaiti government will honor. In return, I’d like to go there even just a few hours to say maraming salamat,” he added.
Duterte did not specify the date of his upcoming visit to Kuwait.
The Philippines and Kuwait recently forged an agreement providing extra protection for Filipino workers in the Gulf State to prevent any abuse and exploitation. The signing of the labor accord has prompted the Duterte government to lift the total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers imposed since February due to recent cases of abuse.
The memorandum of agreement includes the conditions set by President Duterte such as ability to cook own food, no confiscation of cellphone and passport, and a day off per week.
“This will be the barest, barest ‘yung seven hours of sleep. They can cook their own food. They have a one day out. No sexual harassment. No confiscation (of passport),” the President said.
Duterte said he also secured a commitment from Kuwait to ensure there will be “no sexual harassment” of Filipino workers.
“I requested, and I pleaded and I begged for my countrymen that they can cook their own food, that there will be no sexual harassment whatsoever, body contact and pwede silang magpunta sa Embassy for anything,” he said.
Duterte said the new labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait would be the “template” for future employment contracts.
The signing of the labor pact indicated improving Philippines-Kuwait ties after a diplomatic row triggered by the rescue of distressed Filipino workers by embassy staff. The controversial rescue of Filipinos earlier soured the relations between the two countries, even leading to the expulsion of the Philippine ambassador from Kuwait.