MANILA — Philippine officials defended their measures to protect migrant workers in Kuwait, government said Thursday, as they sought to clarify the entry ban the Arab country recently imposed on new Filipino hires.
In a statement, the Philippine government said senior officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) met with their Kuwaiti counterparts in bilateral talks held Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The delegation explained that all actions taken by the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Government are solely to ensure the safety and welfare of our own nationals," the government's statement read.
"Providing protection to a country’s citizens abroad is a well-established duty of consular offices under international law and conventions," it added.
During the talks, Philippine officials said they "expressed full respect" for Kuwaiti laws and thanked their Kuwaiti counterparts "for the hospitality of its government and people to more than 200,000 Filipino workers who consider Kuwait as their second home."
"The Philippines remains open to constructive dialogue on how to address current concerns," the government said, without disclosing details if the entry ban was indeed tackled during the talks.
DFA earlier said identified some of the members of the Philippine delegation, including DFA Assistant Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs Mardomel Melicor, DFA Director Alex Vallespin, and OWWA Administrator Arnell Ignacio.
DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega earlier this week said the employment ban might have been a response to the Philippine deferral of its deployment of household helpers to Kuwait following the murder of migrant worker Jullebee Ranara last January.
Another possible reason for the Kuwait entry ban, he added, was the Philippines' shelter for its runaway workers in Kuwait, which was allegedly a violation of Kuwaiti laws. De Vega noted there were around 466 runaway Filipino workers seeking refuge in the shelter.
"We can always resolve things through diplomacy but not at the expense of the national pride and honor. After all, safety and welfare din ng ating mga kababayan ‘yan,” the DFA official said Tuesday, hours before Philippine officials headed to Kuwait for the bilateral talks.
As of writing, the Kuwaiti and Philippine governments have yet to issue an update on the entry ban, which has affected some 800 newly hired Filipino 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.