Kuwait pressuring PH to lift deployment ban --- DFA official


At a glance

    Kuwait's suspension of issuance of new entry visas for Filipinos was allegedly a move to "pressure" the Philippines to lift its deployment ban of Filipino workers to that country, a foreign affairs official said.

    CFO assists in repatriation of exchange visitor program participants

    Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo De Vega said the suspension made by the Kuwaiti government was a response to the decision of the Philippines in February to suspend the deployment of first-time household workers to Kuwait.

    De Vega said Kuwait's response to the ban was to "expand" the non-deployment of Filipinos to all other workers, aside from household workers.

    "What Kuwait is saying is: well we won't take other workers then. So that was obviously their response and some measure of pressure, shall we say, for the Philippines to reconsider its decision," De Vega said in a television interview on Friday, May 12.

    Violations of labor agreement

    According to the foreign affairs official, there have been two recurring issues the Kuwaiti Government is concerned about pertaining to the bilateral labor agreement of both countries.

    These are the initiative to set up a shelter for runaway Filipino household workers and the effort to reach out to Kuwaiti employers over reports of abuses.

    De Vega said these efforts have been verbally identified by Kuwait as violations of its labor laws.

    De Vega explained that while the setting up of shelter for Filipinos who run away from their employers due to abuses, is not supported under Kuwait's law, it is allowed under Philippine law.

    "Sabi nila under Kuwaiti law, dapat walang (They say, under Kuwaiti law, there should not be a) shelter for runaway workers but then again under Philippine law, we have to have those shelters and of course it is the obligation of the Philippine government to protect them," he said.

    "We are not encouraging them to escape from their employers—yun ang kinakatakutan ng employers (this is what the employers fear of)—but in case of abuses and they have to leave, then they have to have a place to go to," he explained.

    The second issue they were complaining about was that whenever there is a complaint about labor abuse, the Philippine government asks the worker's foreign placement agency in Kuwait to contact the employer. This, De Vega said, is also not applicable under the Kuwaiti law.

    While these issues are referred to by Kuwait as violations, these are "not clearly defined in the agreement (between Kuwait and the Philippines) whether these are violations or not," De Vega noted.

    However, it is something that both governments will have to discuss to resolve the issue.

    Will PH lift deployment ban?

    De Vega said the decision to lift the ban will still have to be discussed by concerned agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

    "We have meetings today. We hope to engage the Congress as well, (and then) eventually give recommendations to the President," he said.

    De Vega further said the Philippines "won't just lift the ban just like that," as the country is still seeking justice on the death of Jullebee Ranara, a domestic helper in the Middle East country, who was killed by her employer's son. Her body was burned and dumped in the desert.

    He stressed that the deployment ban was imposed "because of the heinous crime committed to (one of) our kababayans."

    "As for lifting the ban, right now, we are not deciding that yet. It doesn't mean we won't. Hindi naman pwedeng permanent ban 'to 'no (This can't be permanent), but we'll have to sit down and discuss," De Vega said.

    There will be meetings with Kuwaiti officials this month where both countries are expected to "mutually appeal" on the current bilateral agreement.

    "What's going to happen is we're going to appeal and they are going to appeal. It will be a mutual appeal, I'm sure. So, we may have to put some revisions to the labor agreement or otherwise have some sort of paper on how we'll move forward," De Vega said.

    Not massive

    The DFA executive also said that while the suspension of issuance of entry visas to Filipinos covers all workers, the effect is not massive.

    "It's not that massive yung maapektuhan, na hindi makakapunta sa Kuwait (The effect or the number of workers who won't be able to go to Kuwait will not be massive)," De Vega said.

    "As for yung papunta dun (those who are going there), there's not that many non-household workers who are now being deployed," he added.

    According to him, there are currently 275,000 to 300,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, almost all have a residency. About 5,000 to 10,000 of them are undocumented.

    He clarified that for those who are already there and have a residency, they will be allowed to come home and go back.

    READ MORE: DFA: Kuwait suspends issuing entry visas for Filipinos