PH, Kuwait agree on draft deal for OFW protection

Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2018 09:26 PM

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Kuwait arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila on Monday, February 12, 2018, under government's repatriation program. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines and Kuwait have concurred on a draft deal for the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) after initially disagreeing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Friday. 

Kuwaiti officials finally agreed to ensure that the Filipino workers keep their passports instead of surrendering them to their employers and acknowledge employment contracts based on Philippine law.

Representatives from both countries have finalized the draft for a memorandum of understanding for the protection of migrant workers amid a string of reported deaths and maltreatment of Philippine workers in the Gulf state.

The talks came after the Department of Labor and Employment enforced a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to the Gulf state on President Rodrigo Duterte's orders.

This was prompted by reported deaths of Filipino domestic workers there, including that of Iloilo native Joanna Demafelis. 

The murder of 29-year-old Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in February, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the ban. 

Demafelis' Syrian-Lebanese employers are in custody over her death. 

Bello earlier announced the deployment ban would only be lifted once an agreement on better safeguards for Filipino workers has been reached with Kuwait.

There are some 2 million Filipinos working in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy, according to government data.