MANILA (UPDATED) - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has suspended the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait over recent deaths of seven migrant workers.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he has directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to stop processing overseas employment certificates (OECs) of Kuwait-bound workers.
Bello said he issued the order, which takes effect immediately, to give way to the ongoing investigation into the OFWs' deaths.
"Ako ang nag-order ng suspension muna ng processing ng OECs dahil pinaimbestiga ko yung nabanggit ng ating Pangulo na may kababayan tayong OFWs na namatay allegedly dahil sa maltreatment or abuse by the employers," Bello told ABS-CBN's Bandila.
"So habang iniimbestigahan natin, to find out the truth about the deaths of these OFWs, mas mabuti magpakasiguro tayo, I have to suspend the processing of the issuance of the OEC."
Bello said the suspension will be lifted once the investigation has cleared Kuwait employers from the deaths of their Filipino employees.
"Until after we come up with the result of the investigation. Dahil kung halimbawa, mapatunayan na iyung kamatayan na 'yun ay wala namang kinalaman ang employer nila, then we will immediately lift the suspension," he said.
"However, if it’s established na itong mga kababayan natin ay namatay as a result of maltreatment or abuse by their employer, I think the plan of the President to ban the deployment of OFWs in Kuwait will have to be followed."
The ban came after President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he plans to engage Kuwaiti officials in talks following a string of deaths of Filipino women working in the Gulf state. He did not give any details.
“We talk to them, state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore,” Duterte said.
Kuwait is home to about 600,000 domestic helpers, mostly Asian. In January last year, Filipino migrant worker Jakatia Pawa was executed in Kuwait for allegedly killing her employer’s 22-year-old daughter.