PH eyes partial lifting of Kuwait deployment ban

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2018 07:04 PM

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

MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippine government might consider the partial lifting of a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait after the signing of a deal for the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

Roque, who is currently in Kuwait, said he is “confident” that following the signing of the agreement on May 11 at 1:45 p.m. (Kuwait time), the Philippine government would consider the partial lifting of the ban.

“What we will sign is a labor agreement. It will be signed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, witnessed by all cabinet members present in Kuwait,” Roque told reporters in a video interview.

Roque said certain details would have to be ironed out before the ban could be completely lifted.

He also said the Kuwaiti government wants the Philippines to know that it cares for the welfare of foreign workers.

“One message they want to send to Filipinos is they want all Filipinos to be happy like Kuwaiti nationals,” Roque said.

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed the deployment ban in February following reported deaths of Filipino workers in Kuwait, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in the same month, a year after she was reported missing.

The Philippines had set the signing of an agreement for the protection of Filipino workers in Kuwait as a condition for the lifting of the deployment ban.

Negotiations for the agreement, however, hit a snag when the two countries figured in a diplomatic row after Philippine Embassy officials rescued distressed Filipino workers from their employers' homes in Kuwait without coordinating with local authorities. 

The unilateral action angered Kuwait, saying this violated its sovereignty. It then expelled Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa, ordered the arrest of three Filipino diplomats, and detained four Filipino drivers who participated in the rescue missions. 

The four Filipino drivers have since been released, but there is no word yet from the Philippine government on the status of the three Filipino diplomats who were reportedly holed up in the Philippine embassy in Kuwait.

“We need to normalize ties and one of the crucial things we need to do is to name a new ambassador to Kuwait,” Roque said.