MANILA- The Philippine government's deployment ban of workers to Kuwait is the "best way forward" in light of the reported deaths of Filipinos in the Gulf state, a government official said Tuesday.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said now is the right time to impose the deployment ban to ensure protection of Filipino workers overseas.
"This is a measure to prevent future deaths of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and a measure to ensure that there will be protection," he said in an interview on ANC's Beyond Politics Tuesday.
"We have a president with a clear political will to assert the dignity of OFWs and now is the best time to assert that," he added.
The Philippines earlier this month barred Filipinos from working in Kuwait after the recent deaths of 7 migrant workers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment.
"In light of deaths in 2017 and culminated by Joanna Demafelis' death, heinous death, I think that the clear pronouncement of the President is the best way forward," Cacdac said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had lamented Demafelis' death and expressed outrage over reported abuses of Filipinos in Kuwait.
“The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,” Duterte previously said.
Cacdac said, in 2017 alone, 12 "questionable" Filipino deaths were recorded in Kuwait.
He said the reason for the deaths were not completely answered by Kuwaiti authorities, except to say that the deaths were suicides.
"If indeed there were suicides, why did the suicides happen?" he said. "It takes a lot to explain why a Filipino would commit suicide, especially overseas."
Cacdac also noted that Kuwait is a "special case" given the substantial number of Filipino deaths compared to bigger host countries.
"Kuwait is a very special and very unfortunate case because for a country that is the size of just an average region of the Philippines, we're encountering a great number of cases," he said.
Asked whether the Philippines can afford to blacklist labor markets such as Kuwait, Cacdac said yes and emphasized the need to ensure the social security of Filipino workers overseas.
"Yes, it's in the law that we are authorized to do so and the law is highly protective of workers," he said.
The OWWA official also called for bilateral negotiations with Kuwait and an increased presence of Philippine authorities overseas to heighten protection of Filipinos.
"It (bilateral negotiations) will always be a measure for protecting OFWs... It's not a silver bullet or magical wand but it will be a very important big step," he said.