MANILA - Kuwait has informally agreed to Manila's demands for the protection of over 250,000 Filipinos in the Middle East state, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Wednesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month banned the deployment of new overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to oil-rich Kuwait after Filipina maid Joanna Demafelis was found dead in a freezer.
Bello had said the ban may be lifted if Kuwait signs a pact banning its nationals from confiscating the passports and moving the place of work of OFWs.
"Informally, pumayag sila doon sa mga suggested additional provision for the protection of our workers. Ngayon, pupunta ang kanilang representative dito para i-finalize na po ang draft ng memorandum of agreement," he told DZMM.
(Informally, they have agreed to the suggested additional provision for the protection of our workers. Their representative will come here to finalize the draft of the MOU.)
Recruitment agencies will risk losing their license to operate if they fail to ensure that employers comply with the pact, he added.
Speaking to ANC on Wednesday afternoon, the labor chief said Kuwaiti representatives will be coming to Manila on March 14 for negotiations and finalization of the draft of the memorandum of understanding.
Asked what Kuwait has to do for the Philippines to lift its deployment ban, Bello said: "If the MOA is signed and the employers who tortured our countrywoman to death Joanna have been hanged to death, then probably I will consider submitting my proposal to the President to lift the ban but only for our skilled workers."
Bello said he will brief all labor officers in the Middle East on protecting OFWs when he signs the accord.
There are some 2 million Filipinos working in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy, according to government data.