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(Right to left): Labour Attache Cesar Chavez, POEA Admin Hans Cacdac, OWWA Admin Carmelita Dimzon, Asst Labour Attache Florencia Ardvilla & Welfare Officer Norlita Lugtu
Moratorium ‘no solution’ to rally Pinoy maids protection Cacdac expresses optimism on MoU

 KUWAIT CITY, May 24: A moratorium or the temporary suspension on the deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) to Kuwait may not be the answer to rally the protection and welfare of over 90,000 HSWs in the country after reported cases of physical and sexual abuses, non-payment of salaries and other forms of maltreatment.

This was the pronouncement of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Carmelita Dimzon who arrived in Kuwait earlier this week to attend the first Senior Officials Meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue held on May 22 at the Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait City.

The two were joined in by Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait Atty Cesar Chavez Jr, Assistant Labour Attache Florencia Ardvilla and Welfare Officer Norlita Lugtu. “We don’t want to engage in drastic measures like banning our workers or temporarily suspend the deployment of our workers. It needs thorough studies because in the past suspension did not do well to us, just like what happened in Jordan and Lebanon. It even worsened the human trafficking and illegal migration. People will go backdoor.

Banning or suspending the deployment of housemaids can be imposed by the government but that is not what the workers want so they’ll do their own way. So from our side, we want them to be protected and be documented when they are planning to work or go out of the Philippines,” explained Cacdac. He underlined the need for Kuwait and the Philippines to sit down and map out the guidelines and measures to protect the HSWs and all stakeholders.

The Abu Dhabi Dialogue is the agglomeration of all labor-exporting and labor-receiving states that seek to standardise and implement protocols as well as policies beneficial for both workers and employers. The Philippines is the current chairman of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue and the chairmanship will be turned over to the Kuwaiti side in November this year. “Under the Philippines chairman-ship in the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, we were able to come up with the complete framework for regional collaboration on the protection and assistance of migrant workers and we will continue to explore measures on how to protect our Filipino workers especially the HSWs,” stressed Cacdac. He outlined that in accordance to the law in the Philippines, the POEA and the Department of Foreign Affairs should collaborate with each other on OFW concerns and the country certification system in terms of giving protection to their nationals.

Petition
It may be recalled that in September last year over 10,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait signed the petition on the moratorium on the deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) to Kuwait and the Middle East.

The petition appeals strongly to the Philippine government to immediately suspend the deployment of Filipino women as Household Service Workers (HSWs) to the Middle East due to the recent rise in the number of abuses committed against Filipino HSWs in Kuwait and various parts of the Middle East. The 600-page document that contains over 10,000 signatures was turned over by Ann Abunda, the President of SANDIGAN and one of the prime movers of the petition to Philippine Consul General Atty Raul H Dado. “We hope and pray that the Philippine government heed the voice of the OFWs in Kuwait. May they not turn a blind eye on us.

Stop the deployment of HSWs temporarily until full protection is given to our HSWs,” stated Abunda who along with her group has been actively involved in rescuing distressed HSWs in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy. There are around 180,000 OFWs in Kuwait and over 90,000 of whom work as HSWs. Meanwhile, some Filipino leaders in Kuwait have been pushing for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Kuwait government and the Philippine government on the Cooperation in the Recruitment and Employment of Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) which is still pending for signature between the two governments.

The MoU when signed by both countries provides areas of cooperation on organising the recruitment and employment of household service workers according to applicable laws; protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of household service workers according to applicable laws; exchanging information and studies on household service workers and any other human resource cooperation related to the MoU.

When asked about the possibility of the signing of the MoU this year, Cacdac expressed optimism with the ongoing talks with their Kuwaiti counterpart. “The complications mentioned are the fact that the domestic helpers concerns in Kuwait fall in the hands of the Ministry of Interior whereas the general MoU which we signed earlier was under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. Now with the domestic helper MoU, we are dealing with two government agencies here, the interior and social affairs, so there is difficulty but rest assured that talks are continuing and hopefully by the end of this year, we’ll be able to sign the domestic labor MoU with Kuwait,” informed Cacdac.

Meanwhile, Dimzon called on all recruitment agencies to go out of their way in looking after the welfare of the workers that they have deployed. “I always remind recruitment agencies to select the best employers for our workers. Take an extra mile to help them get the best since they’ll be working far away from their families, be mindful of the conditions of our workers and not just be too concerned of what they can get from them,” she mentioned.

Dimzon and Cacdac also visited the over 100 wards staying temporarily at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre (FWRC) in Faiha who are awaiting repatriation to the Philippines. The two officials will be back in Kuwait in November together with Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for the third session of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue. The Abu Dhabi Dialogue has 18 member countries and seven Asian temporary contractual labour-receptor countries including Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Malaysia and Kuwait, as well as 11 Asian labour-sending countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. It also has monitoring participants namely Japan, Singapore and South Korea.


By: Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff

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