Labor chief open to partial lifting of Kuwait deployment ban

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2018 05:17 PM | Updated as of Dec 11 2018 07:25 PM

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

MANILA - The Philippines may soon lift the deployment ban to Kuwait but only for skilled workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Wednesday.

The deployment ban for domestic workers, however, is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon.

"I will be prepared to recommend lifting of the total ban with respect to the skilled workers but not the household service workers," Bello told lawmakers during a hearing of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs.

The Philippines last month repatriated hundreds of Filipino workers from Kuwait and imposed a ban on the deployment of workers to the Gulf state, prompted by reported deaths of Filipino domestic workers there, including that of Iloilo native Joanna Demafelis. 

The murder of 29-year-old Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in February, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the ban. 

Last week, Bello announced that the Philippines and Kuwait have concurred on a draft deal for the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The labor chief said the draft deal contains a provision that custody of passports of OFWs must be with the Philippine Embassy.

"We have to find out faithful compliance with the MOU (memorandum of understanding). One example will be justice to Demafelis ASAP (as soon as possible)," he said. 

How Kuwait will deal with the investigation of Demafelis' murder case will be Manila's basis for the Gulf state's sincerity in pursuing the deal on the protection of migrant workers, Bello said.

The slain domestic workers' employers were earlier arrested in connection with her death. 

"...If they do something to give justice to Joanna, that's an indication na serious..." he said.

More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait according to government data, most of whom are domestic helpers.