Villanueva seeks review of PH-Kuwait bilateral labor agreement

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva is pushing for a comprehensive review of the bilateral labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait amid rising cases of abuse of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Villanueva made the call after another case of OFW abuse in Kuwait was reported following the death of Jullebee Ranara.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported that on January 21, OFW Myla Balbag fell from the third floor of her employer's house in the residential area of Hateen while trying to escape.

The Balbag case prompted Senator Rafael ‘’Raffy’’ T. Tulfo to press for a ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.

“After these two unfortunate incidents, we need to carefully study if the policies are fair and being followed and clearly set the parameters on when to impose a ban and when to lift," Villanueva said.

To further ensure the safety of our OFWs, Villanueva filed Senate Resolution 456 urging the executive department to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace.

ILO Convention190, or the Violence and Harassment Convention, seeks to protect workers and other persons in the world of work from violence and harassment occurring in the course of, linked with, or arising out of work with an accompanying recommendation that provides guidance in implementing the Convention.

Villanueva said the Philippines' ratification of the ILO Convention will provide the "impetus" to reflect on the principles of the labor standards and could provide the country the option to elevate the killings of OFWs to the ILO Supervisory Bodies.

“The brutal killing of Ranara happened even amid an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippines and Kuwait on the kafala system, which lays down the obligations in the treatment and protection of foreign workers,” the Majority Leader said.

As of 2022, there were 24,549 OFW welfare cases in Kuwait of which, 8,755 are contract violation cases, 823 are physical maltreatment cases, 99 are sexual abuse cases and 26 are rape cases.

The Department of Migrant Workers data showed a significant increase in welfare cases from 2016 which was at 6,536.

“Let’s give our OFWs reassurance that their government is doing their best to make sure that they are protected and that their rights are not violated," Villanueva said.

"This is living up to our obligations to our 'heroes' who have braved foreign worlds and transformed the economic landscape of our country for want of better lives for their families," he added.