Palace: PH-Kuwait deal protecting OFWs seen after Ramadan

MANILA The Philippines and Kuwait may possibly sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Gulf state after this year's Ramadan, MalacaAang said Tuesday.

We still expect the [MOU] providing the minimum terms and conditions of employment for OFWs to be signed soon. As in fact, they're already talking about possible dates and a possible date may be after this year's Ramadan, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque made this statement a day after President Rodrigo R. Duterte received Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh in Davao City Monday evening to discuss issues between the two countries.

He said that the meeting ended on a positive note where Duterte emphasized that while the Philippines will always exercise its obligation to protect its nationals abroad, they will do so in a matter respecting the sovereignty of Kuwait.

It was a frank and very cordial discussion. I understand that after the meeting both parties reiterate their mutual support for each other and parted even closer as friends, Roque said.

Never in danger

Roque, meanwhile, assured that the MOU was never in danger despite viral videos of distressed OFWs in Kuwait being rescued by embassy staff, which reportedly angered the Kuwaiti government and resulted in a series of diplomatic complaints.

I don't think it was ever in danger. I think both parties, both states have invested time, resources, effort, and I think both are serious in signing this MOU, Roque said. If it did then the [MOU] will not be signed.

We can't deny, we have to provide employment for our countrymen but I think the Kuwait side also has recognized that they also need the services of our countrymen. It is that sense of mutual need for each other that we negotiated the MOU, he added.

Although Duterte did not make a formal apology to the Kuwaiti envoy over the rescue operation, Roque said that the President's personal, friendly approach to discussing the issue resolved their misunderstanding.

I don't think that (an apology) was necessary at allI think outside of apologies, his style eventually led to the result that wanted that it was not too big deal as far as our bilateral relations are concerned, Roque said noting that Duterte's conduct could inspire friendship and confidence especially up close.

Ang assessment po ng Presidente, naayos po niya kung ano man ang naging kaunting gusot sa samahan ng Kuwait at ng Pilipinas kagabi(The assessment of the President is that he was able to iron out whatever misunderstanding there was between the relationship of Kuwait and the Philippines last night), he added.

Laid-back style

Roque said Duterte's laid-back style somehow made up for whatever ill feelings might have resulted from the viral videos

Iba kasi ang style ng Presidente, laid-back eh and maski ikaw ay galit na galit, madi-disarm ka sa style ni Presidente kasi parang barkadahan system siya 'no (The President has a different style, it's laid-back and even if you're really angry, you'll be disarmed by the style of the President because he treats you as a friend), Roque said.

Trinato niya na barkada yung Kuwaiti ambassador at siyempre magre-reciprocate naman yung Kuwaiti ambassador so ano man yung hindi napagkasunduan ay naayos naman among friends kaya nga po tuloy pa rin yung signing ng ating [MOU] (He treated the Kuwait ambassador like a friend and of course he reciprocated so whatever misunderstanding was fixed among friends that's why we're still pushing through with the signing of the MOU), he added.

Roque attributed Duterte's style to his experience as former mayor of Davao City.

Yung (The) many years of experience ni (of the) Presidente as a local government official, I think that worked to our advantagethey parted even as closer friends, Roque said.

The (President) may have a very friendly approach, but he's also a man of political will. I think he made it very clear that he has no other option but to protect Filipino workers in Kuwait so I think that was made very clear but at the same time, because we also have this independent foreign policy, he also recognized the right of sovereignty as far as Kuwait is concerned, he added.

Asked if Duterte was to push through with his trip to Kuwait to witness the signing of the MOU, Roque said that he was not sure since the President wanted to cut on the travels.

I'm not sure about whether or not the President will still go but what I do know is he's really tired of traveling and he's trying to cut on the travels so we'll see, Roque said.

Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month in the Islamic calendar, will begin in mid-May this year. It is commemorated by Muslims around the world through fasting from sunrise to sunset and prayers.

Source: Philippine News Agency