Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has paid tribute to the “generosity” of Kuwait and the legacy of its leaders on the occasion of the 60th National Day and 30th Liberation Day of the Gulf State.
Locsin expressed his gratitude to Kuwait for helping the Philippines repatriate thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) especially at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic “at no cost to the Philippine Government or themselves.”
“At the outbreak of the pandemic, the Kuwaiti Government had the foresight to be the first in the Middle East to start repatriating distressed foreign workers. It launched an amnesty program for expatriates with immigration violations, benefitting more than 20,000 expatriates including distressed Overseas Filipinos. Furthermore, the Kuwaiti Government waived immigration penalties, provided temporary shelters and shouldered the airfare to Manila,” the DFA secretary said in a video message to Kuwait.
According to Locsin, Kuwait’s amnesty program enabled a great number of Filipinos to return to their country before stricter immigration controls kicked in and travel restrictions were imposed worldwide.
“It is proof, if any more is needed, of the decades-long friendship between our countries,” he added.
In expressing his solidarity on the milestone celebration of the Gulf state, Locsin recalled the legacy of Kuwait’s highly revered Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who passed away in September last year.“Sheikh Sabah’s accomplishments and contributions will always be remembered not just by his people but especially by the Philippines,” the country’s top diplomat said.
He further noted that Kuwait‘s “pragmatic and balanced foreign policy” has contributed greatly towards resolving diplomatic crises in the Gulf, has repeatedly illustrated the successful use of diplomatic mediation in restoring relations, and effectively de-escalating tension in the region.
The Middle East region is home to over two million Filipinos, more than 200,000 of them are in Kuwait.“As our diplomatic relations enter its 42nd year, I look forward to reaffirming our bilateral ties and expanding areas of cooperation for the mutual benefit of both our peoples,” he said.
In April 2018, the relationship between Manila and Kuwait was at its ebb following the expulsion of then Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa as an offshoot of the controversial ‘rescue’ of a female OFW from the household of her Kuwaiti employer which was vividly captured on video and widely circulated on the internet.
The tension between the two sides was only diffused when both agreed to sign an agreement that would provide ample protection to Filipinos working in Kuwait.