MANILA — Philippine authorities are discussing what should be the "best response" to Kuwait's suspension of entry and work visas for Filipinos, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.
Citing the Philippines' alleged non-compliance to a labor agreement, the Kuwait Directorate General of Civil Aviation on May 10 ordered airport personnel to bar Filipinos from entering the country, except for those who are Kuwait residents.
"Tayo sa pamahalaan, hindi lang sa DFA, pati yung Department of Migrant Workers kasama d'yan, pinag-uusapan namin yung best response," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo de Vega said.
"At siyempre makikipagkonsulta rin kami sa mga shareholders natin, sa mga publiko kasi ano talaga, ang number one, protection at hustisya para sa ating mga kababayan," he told TeleRadyo.
(We in the government, not just the DFA, but also the Department of Migrant Workers, we are discussing the best response. And of course, we will also consult stakeholders, the public on number, protection and justice for our compatriots.)
PROMPTED BY DEPLOYMENT BAN?
The official said Kuwait wanted the Philippines to lift its deployment ban for newly hired or first-time domestic workers in Kuwait until Filipino workers were guaranteed protection following the tragic death of Jullebee Ranara.
The burned remains of the 35-year-old Ranara were left in a desert in Kuwait in January by the 17-year old son of her employer, who confessed to the crime.
"Ang ginawa ng Kuwait, habang wala pang balita tungkol d'yan, kung ili-lift natin or what, sinabi nila, 'Kung ganoon, hindi lang household workers — Hindi muna kami tatanggap din ng ibang workers," De Vega said.
"Hindi ibig sabihin na pinapauwi na yung nandoon. Hindi rin ibig sabihin na yung meron na doon tapos uuwi ng Pilipinas, hindi na makakabalik. Kasi basta meron kayon Kuwait civil residence ID, yung tawag doon iqama, makakabalik kayo. Pero hindi muna sila mag-i-issue ng new visas para sa mga Pilipino," he added.
(Pending news on whether or not we will lift the deployment ban, Kuwait said, 'Apart from household workers, we will also stop hiring other Filipino workers.' That doesn't mean that they are sending home those who are already there. It also does not mean that those who are visiting the Philippines can no longer return. As long as you have a Kuwait civil residence ID, you can go back. But they will not issue new visas for Filipinos.)
Philippine and Kuwaiti officials will discuss the issue this May or in June, said De Vega.
He said Filipino authorities would fight for OFW interests in their dialogues with Kuwaiti counterparts.
“Ito po, nasa ating mamamayan na yan, papayag ba tayo mag-lift tayo ng ban kahit na hindi pa tapos yung kaso ni (Jullebee) Ranara? Papayag ba tayo na ma-lift yung ban na yung mga gusto ng Kuwait tutuloy natin?” he asked.
(Now, this is up to our people, do we lift the deployment ban while Ranara's case is not yet resolved? Will we lift the ban while giving in to Kuwait's demands?)
“I think this could last for several months pa,” the official noted.
“Kailangan kumilos itong ating Department of Migrant Workers at DFA para primarily malaman kung ano itong sinasabing labor agreement violation ng Pilipinas, at maganda ngang ma-check eh. Paano ba talaga nagco-comply yung government ng Kuwait at government ng Pilipinas dito sa usapin ng proteksyon sa ating mga migrant workers?” Migrante chairperson Arman Hernando said.
(The DFA and DMW need to act swiftly to find out what our alleged labor agreement violations are. This is also a good time to see how both the Philippine and Kuwait are complying with agreements to protect migrant workers.)
Kuwait hosts around 275,000 to 300,000 Filipinos, most of them household workers while some are in the hotel, restaurant, and healthcare industries, De Vega said.
In a separate statement, the DFA said the Philippines remained committed to resolving bilateral issues "in an amicable manner."
"In the case of Kuwait, we are confident that with our friendly relations and strong people-to-people links, we shall be able to find a mutually satisfactory solution that will take into account the need to provide maximum protection and access to justice for all our nationals working in the country," the agency said.