PH envoy says sorry to Kuwait over OFW rescue

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2018 07:46 PM

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa. Handout

MANILA - Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa on Tuesday apologized to Kuwait for the controversial rescue of Filipino domestic workers from their employers' homes in the Gulf state, which the Kuwaiti government viewed as a violation of its sovereignty.

Villa, in a press briefing at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, explained that it was not the intention of the Philippines to offend the Kuwaiti government and its people.

His statement echoed the Philippine government's apology to Kuwait earlier Tuesday, where Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano assured the Gulf state that "we will follow their laws."

"I join the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in extending this apology. I would like to take this opportunity to underscore that it was never the intention of the Embassy to offend the sensitivities of the Kuwaiti government and the Kuwaiti people," he said.

 

Villa came under fire after he was seen in a video over the weekend supposedly saying that his embassy did not need the aid of Kuwaiti authorities in helping undocumented Filipinos.

The video, which also shows embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino household service workers from Kuwaiti homes, went viral online, prompting the Kuwaiti foreign ministry to summon Villa and lodge a diplomatic protest.

Facing the media, Villa also appealed to Kuwait for understanding of the Philippine government's duty to respond to calls for assistance from overseas Filipino workers experiencing abuse.

He also thanked Kuwait for its hospitality to Filipino workers and for extending the amnesty program for the repatriation of Filipino workers.

"On behalf of my government, I would like to express the deep appreciation of the Republic of the Philippines for the hospitality extended by the government of the state of Kuwait to the more than 250,000 Filipinos who have made Kuwait their second home," he said.

The Philippines and Kuwait are finalizing a deal for the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf state. Talks began following a string of reported abuse and deaths of OFWs, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait in February. 

The incident prompted the Philippine government to ban the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state and initiate a repatriation program for those who would like to come home. 

-- with reports from Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN News