MANILA - (UPDATE) The Philippine government on Monday said it has ordered a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait, following instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Pursuant to that directive of the president, we will be issuing an administrative order, to totally ban deployment of our OFWs to Kuwait...Yung ban will cover all," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told reporters.
The Department of Labor and Employment earlier suspended the processing of new employment certificates for Kuwait-bound OFWs after the recent deaths of 7 migrant workers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer.
At least 400 repatriated Filipinos from Kuwait have arrived in the Philippines on Monday, a Palace spokesman said.
Some 2,500 more Filipinos in the Gulf state are ready to be repatriated, said Bello.
He said the government has created a task force to handle the repatriation of the Filipino workers pursuant to Duterte's order to have them back within 72 hours.
Another task force will assess the situation in the Middle East and the condition of the thousands of Filipinos there to determine "how we can be of assistance to them."
Bello said the government will help the repatriated workers look for new jobs, and they may be deployed to other countries such as China or Russia.
In an earlier interview, Bello said the government may lift the ban if Kuwait signs a memorandum of agreement for the protection of OFWs. The accord will bar employers from confiscating workers' passports and transferring them to another workplace, among others.
On the other hand, the deployment ban may extend to other Arab nations if a pending review finds that the condition of OFWs there is poor, Bello said.