Lawmaker urges government to forge OFW protection deal with Kuwait

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2018 06:21 PM

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila on Monday, February 12, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A party-list lawmaker on Thursday urged the government to pursue a bilateral agreement with Kuwait for the protection of Filipino migrant workers instead of just a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

ACTS OFW party-list Rep. John Bertiz said a bilateral agreement would be more binding and could provide better protection, particularly for Filipino domestic workers.

"I really suggest na or recommend we push for a bilateral agreement kasi 'pag MOU lang, 'pag nagpalit ng mga officials na naman... puwede niya hindi i-implement ['yung MOU]," he said.

Earlier this month, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Kuwait has informally agreed to Manila's demands for better protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

"Ang sa akin lang kasi we already have an existing MOU for so many years and karamihan doon sa mga naka-stipulate sa MOU eh andoon naka-stipulate, nakasulat sa mga employment contract ng ating mga OFW," Bertiz said.

Calls for stronger protective measures for overseas Filipino workers intensified following the brutal killing of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait in February, more than a year since she went missing.

Her body bore signs of abuse. Her Syrian-Lebanese employers, primary suspects in the killing, were arrested last month after an Interpol manhunt. 

Her death prompted the government to repatriate thousands of Filipino workers from the Gulf state and halt the deployment of migrant workers there.

There are over 252,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, most of whom are domestic helpers.