MANILA - Kuwait has released four Filipino drivers held amid its diplomatic row with the Philippines as it agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding to provide greater protection for Philippine workers in the Gulf state, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.
The development came in the wake of a diplomatic row between the two countries over the rescue of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by Philippine embassy officials in Kuwait, videos of which spread online.
The rescue, held without knowledge of Kuwait authorities, angered the Kuwaiti government as it viewed them as a violation of its sovereignty. The gulf state expelled the Philippine envoy there, ordered the arrest of three Filipino diplomats, and detained four drivers working for the Philippine embassy.
“The Philippine delegation met officials from the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry where the Philippines and Kuwait look forward to the normalization of ties,” said a statement by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who was among officials President Rodrigo Duterte sent to Kuwait.
“Kuwait, on its part, has expressed the value of Filipinos in Kuwait.”
Aside from agreeing to push through with the signing of the MOU, Kuwait also agreed to create a special unit within the local police that the Philippine Embassy could liaison with in addressing calls for help from Filipino workers.
A special number where Filipinos can call for assistance will also be set up.
There was no word yet, however, on the status of three Filipino diplomats who were ordered arrested by Kuwait. The diplomats were reportedly holed up in the Philippine embassy.
Roque said Kuwait also guaranteed that all remaining undocumented Filipinos, except for those with pending cases, would be allowed to go home. At least 150 of the 600 undocumented Filipino workers will be joining the Philippine officials on their flight home.
The Philippines had set the MOU with Kuwait as a condition to end its deployment ban to the Gulf state, a move triggered by the string of deaths of OFWs working in the Middle Eastern nation.
The controversial rescue missions, however, had cast doubt on the fate of the MOU, until officials from both sides met again and agreed to work on normalizing ties.
The Filipino delegation includes Roque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III, former Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Labor Attaché Rustico dela Fuente, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuwait Mohd Noordin Lomondot.