The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has temporarily suspended the deployment of first-time applicants for jobs in Kuwait amid the ongoing discussions to ensure the safety and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) following the brutal death of household service worker Jullebee Ranara last month.
DMW Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople said the decision only covers contracts of Kuwait-bound first-time OFW domestic workers, especially household service workers.
"The application of first-time migrant workers specifically for household services in Kuwait shall be deferred until after significant reforms have been made and more safeguards are in place for their protection and welfare," said Ople.
A series of bilateral talks between the Philippine and the Kuwaiti governments were scheduled to discuss OFW welfare.
The death of 35-year old Ranara at the hands of the 17-year old son of her employer sparked outrage in the Philippines and prompted officials to call for deployment ban to Kuwait.
Ople, however, explained that deployment ban is not being considered since it would affect around 260,000 OFWs, around 195,000 of them are household service workers, currently in Kuwait.
Instead of Kuwait, Ople said domestic workers have several countries to choose from.
“Hong Kong remains a strong alternative and is much nearer to home, and we also have Singapore where we have very good relations with our counterpart ministry,” said Ople, who is now in Tokyo to assist President Marcos in his meeting with Japanese shipowners.
She remains optimistic that significant changes can still be made to the existing bilateral labor agreement that the Philippines has with Kuwait.
“Why not just impose a total deployment ban? Because there are actual OFWs who have already worked in Kuwait for several years who still want to go back to their old employers or seek new ones," explained Ople.
"We have also been informed through diplomatic channels of the willingness of the Kuwait government to engage in bilateral labor talks. We are preparing well in advance for these talks, bringing with us an accumulation of abuse done over the years, hence the need for significant changes,” she added.
She cited the good relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines after the bilateral talks in November 2022.
“As a result of our talks with Saudi Arabia, a joint technical working group was created to thresh out various problems and concerns, and that group meets every week through virtual means," said Ople.