Lifting of deployment ban depends on PH-Kuwait MOU deal

MANILA The lifting of the total deployment ban to Kuwait rests on a signed labor deal to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and on the fixed relations of the two states, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday.

"The lifting of the ban will be contingent on the signing of the agreement, which is contingent (on) the good relationship and the assurance that they will be protected," he told reporters in a press conference in Cebu City.

Citing President Rodrigo R. Duterte's pronouncements, Cayetano said that so long as Filipinos are not protected 100 percent, and no agreement or implementing mechanism is in place to protect OFWs, the ban would not be lifted.

At present, the agreement is more than 60 percent to 70 percent complete, since provisions agreed during negotiations are there, he said.

He added that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello even supervised that all conditions required by the President are present.

Despite this, however, he pointed out that at least 800 Filipinos are still stuck in the shelters, 120 have yet to be rescued, and that there are diplomats who could not leave Kuwait as of now. He said some pending cases have yet to move forward.

"We have asked our Kuwaiti counterparts to look (into) that. Kasi aanhin mo naman 'yung agreement kung hindi naman nasusunod (What good is an agreement if it is not followed)," he said.

The foreign affairs chief admitted that about 96 percent of OFWs in Kuwait are in good condition under their employers.

Although the remaining is a small percentage, their conditions and welfare are still being looked after, he said.

Angered by the rescue operations of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, the Kuwaiti government last Wednesday declared Ambassador Renato Villa persona non grata, marking evident strain in Philippine-Kuwaiti ties.

Duterte earlier imposed a total deployment ban on new workers to Kuwait following reports of abuse inflicted upon Filipina household workers and the brutal murder of Joanna Demafelis.

After the diplomatic spat between the Philippines and Kuwait escalated last week, Duterte on Sunday announced that the ban stays permanently".

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, clarified that the remarks reflect the current status quo.

He said that until the two states reach or sign a memorandum of understanding, providing for the minimum terms and conditions of OFW's employment, the ban stays.

On Tuesday, the DFA welcomed Kuwait's expression of willingness to work with Manila resolving their diplomatic tiff.

No specific meeting between the DFA and its counterparts has been revealed, but it was earlier announced that some Cabinet members, including Bello, will visit Kuwait in the first week of May. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency