SINGAPORE - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday appealed to the 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait to come home.
This, amid rising tensions between the Philippines and Kuwait over the controversial rescue operations of distressed Filipino domestic workers in the Gulf state which angered the Kuwaiti government.
“I now appeal to your sense of patriotism. Come home. Tutal marami nang trabaho sa Pilipinas,” Duterte said in his speech before the Filipino community here.
It was the first time the president addressed the issue after the Kuwaiti government expelled Philippine ambassador Renato Villa, a move which the Philippine government called inconsistent with the assurances given by its envoy in Manila.
In the same speech, Duterte announced his plan to pull out Filipino workers in the Gulf state, given the supposed poor treatment of domestic workers there.
“Ang sabihin ko na lang sa kanila, and I plead na may total ban na sa deployment. Ayaw ko na silang papuntahin because apparently parang ayaw ninyo ang Pilipino,” he said.
“Just help us. I will look for money at kukunin ko lahat, lahat ng trabahanteng Pilipinong nasa… bahala na mag-utang ako kung anong gawin ko.”
Duterte said he intends to resume talks with Kuwait once he is able to pull them out.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday said the Philippines remains in talks with Kuwait, but asserted that the Philippines' rescue of distressed Filipino workers was a "rightful exercise" of government's duty to protect its citizens overseas.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said Duterte was surprised with Kuwait's decision to expel Villa following the release of a video showing Philippine embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino workers in Kuwait.
The Philippines apologized for the incident, which Kuwait viewed as a violation of its sovereignty. Manila also assured the Gulf state that it "will follow their laws."
The Philippines earlier banned the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state and started repatriating those who would like to come home following reported abuses and deaths of Philippine citizens there, most recently domestic worker Joanna Demafelis.
Demafelis' death had angered Duterte, saying he was willing to take "drastic steps" to make sure no other Filipino worker would end up dead in the Gulf state or any other Arab nation.