MANILA - The Philippines on Monday will announce a ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Sunday.
Bello earlier suspended the processing of new employment certificates for Kuwait-bound OFWs after the recent deaths of 7 migrant workers, including a Filipina whose body was found in a freezer.
The suspension however was not enough for President Rodrigo Duterte, who wanted to "send a strong message" through a total OFW deployment ban, said Bello.
"I was talking to him, sabi ko, 'Boss baka hindi kailangan ban, baka puwede na iyung suspension ko.' 'Hindi,' sabi niya. 'I want to send a strong message,' he told radio DZMM.
(I was talking to him and said, 'Boss, perhaps we don't need the ban, maybe the suspension I ordered would do.' 'No, he said. 'I want to send a strong message.')
"Iyun po ang direktiba ng ating Pangulo sa amin and by tomorrow, I'm going to issue the order," he added.
(That is the directive of our President and by tomorrow, I'm going to issue the order.)
The government will repatriate distressed Filipino workers in Kuwait. OFWs who want to stay with their employers, meanwhile, will be allowed to do so, Bello said.
The Philippines, he said, may lift the ban if Kuwait signs a memorandum of agreement for the protection of OFWs. The accord will bar employers from confiscating workers' passports and transferring them to another workplace, among others.
On the other hand, the deployment ban may extend to other Arab nations if a pending review finds that the condition of OFWs there is poor, Bello said.
Kuwait is home to some 250,000 OFWs and about 50,000 undocumented Filipino workers, the Labor chief said.
Two local carriers, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, have offered to bring home distressed OFWs.