Ex-labor exec calls for 'safer, rights-based markets' for OFWs

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2020 06:02 PM

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MANILA - The Philippine government should find other employment options for Filipino workers who are going to be affected by the total deployment ban in Kuwait.

This as government has enforced a total ban on sending Filipino workers to the Gulf state following another slay of a Filipino worker there. 

"There is basis for us to react this way. But there is also a concern of the affected workers that government should address by way of looking for alternative means of employment and livelihood for them while the deployment ban is in place," said Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and a former labor undersecretary. 

On ANC's Dateline Philippines on Saturday, Ople said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) should set a meeting with the private recruitment industry to determine other markets for affected OFWs.

"But that meeting and consultation must happen soon," said Ople.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the labor department's call for a total ban on deployment of OFWs to Kuwait following the death of Jeanelyn Villavende.

Kuwait had reported that Villavende died due to “trauma and bruises all over her body.” However, an autopsy by the National Bureau of Investigation showed that the OFW was sexually abused and tortured. 

Kuwaiti authorities have arrested her employers in connection with her slay. 

Duterte wants the Philippines to stop sending its people to the Gulf state, including skilled workers, until Kuwait honors provisions of a 2018 deal to provide better protection for Filipino migrant workers there.

The pact was forged in response to the murder of Filipina Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait in February 2018. Her employer was found guilty for her slay. 

"The agreement is already there and it has been in effect since 2018. The fact that it took another painful and tragic and horrendous death of an OFW to revive the talks regarding the full implementation of that agreement already speaks volumes of the political will especially on the Kuwait side," Ople pointed out.

The Ople center's position was for a permanent ban on the deployment of first time domestic workers to Kuwait. 

"I think we should err on the side of caution and look at other safer, more rights-based labor markets for our domestic workers," she said.

Skilled workers, on the other hand, are better protected than domestic workers, she said.

"They are valued because of their skills and most of them are working for reputable companies. But in the case of domestic workers, they are highly vulnerable," she said.

She said the bilateral talks that will transpire next week is highly critical.

"Because if there is no unified or harmonize contracts that reflects the bilateral agreement, why should we continue to send our domestic workers in Kuwait," she said.

Meanwhile, OFWs already in Kuwait should be allowed to keep their jobs through the duration of their contracts if they are happy with their employers, and vice versa.