MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte averted a potential diplomatic fallout between the Philippines and Kuwait following the release of a video showing the rescue of distressed domestic workers in Kuwait.
The video, which shows Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa saying that his embassy did not need the aid of Kuwaiti authorities in helping undocumented Filipinos, has angered the Kuwaiti government who decried its country’s sovereignty was violated.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s meeting with Kuwait’s ambassador to the Philippines Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh helped clear things out between the two states.
Roque added that the Philippines and Kuwait have acknowledged that their bilateral ties should be considered more important than the recent controversy.
“They parted on a positive note, emphasizing that while the Philippines will always exercise its obligation to protect its nationals abroad, they will do so in a manner respecting the sovereignty of Kuwait,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
“Iyung mga hindi pagkakaintindihan siguro, alam niyo kung ano iyon, iyung pinoprotesta ng Kuwait, I think naayos naman ni presidente ang sigalot na yan, minor lang naman.”
(The misunderstanding was fixed by the President. It was just a minor one.)
The incident occurred just as the Philippines and Kuwait were hammering out a memorandum of understanding for the protection of Filipinos working in the Gulf state.
Roque said while an apology from the President over the incident is not yet needed, he believes the Philippines’ bargaining position was not weakened.
“If it did (weaken) then the [MOU] would not be signed. I understand it will be signed. I don’t see how our position was weakened,” he said.
“I cannot see also the President not insisting on his obligation to protect Filipino nationals. He may have a very friendly approach, a personalistic approach, but he’s also a man of political will. I think he made it very clear he had no other option but to protect Filipino workers in Kuwait.”
Duterte suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait following the deaths of Filipino domestic workers there, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer over a year after she was reported missing.