MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait remains, casting doubt over the fate of a possible deal between the two countries for the protection of Filipinos working in the Gulf state.
This developed as Duterte appealed to some 260,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait to just return home.
“The ban stays permanently. There will be no more recruitment, especially for domestic helpers. Wala na,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City when asked what will happen to the memorandum of understanding the Philippines and Kuwait were hammering out.
The Philippines had set the MOU with Kuwait as a condition to end its deployment ban to the Gulf state. However, as that transpired, they figured in a diplomatic row after a video showing the rescue of distressed Filipino domestic workers from their employers' homes in the Gulf state surfaced and went viral online.
Kuwait viewed the Philippine embassy’s rescue mission as a violation of its laws and sovereignty, prompting the expulsion of Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa and the recall of its envoy to the Philippines. Kuwait has also detained several Philippine embassy personnel involved in the rescue.
The president said he takes full responsibility for the incident, as it is his duty as head of state to protect Filipinos working abroad.
Duterte said that he holds no grudge toward the Kuwaiti government over the maltreatment of some Filipinos by their Kuwaiti employers, and he would prefer that Filipinos working in the Gulf state to return home.
“For Filipino professionals who may wish to stay in Kuwait, there’s no problem. But at the same time I would like them to cherish and nurture their patriotism,” Duterte said.
“For Filipino household service workers, if your Kuwaiti employers want you to leave, then please come home. Your government will do its best to help you return.”
Duterte also described the situation of Filipinos in Kuwait as a “calamity”, and that he is willing to release large sums to help OFWs with their plight.
Talks between the Philippines and Kuwait for the MOU began following a string of reported abuses and deaths of OFWs, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait in February, over a year after she was reported missing.
The deaths of Filipinas at the Gulf state prompted the Philippine government to ban the deployment of Filipino workers there and initiate a repatriation program for those who would like to come home. Prior to the diplomatic flap, Manila had said a deal for the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state would make it reconsider its deployment ban.