KUWAIT CITY, Jan 27: Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said President Rodrigo Duterte is serious in considering a total deployment ban of workers to Kuwait, reports Al-Anba daily.
In a statement Thursday, the DOLE chief noted that such action would depend if the investigation on the recent deaths of overseas Filipino workers were caused by maltreatment and abuse. “The major concern of the President is the welfare of our overseas Filipino workers, and he is serious about his threat of total ban if the investigation would point to violent maltreatment and exploitation as the cause of death,” he added. “We have alternative markets in China, Canada and UK and our country has also an increasing demand for workers,” Bello said.
“We have to ensure full protection and security of our overseas Filipino workers before sending them that’s why we ordered the suspension. The result of the investigation will be out after 15 days,” Bello said.
Bello said his office received reports of 1,447 cases of maltreatment, 2,959 cases of contract violation, 227 sexual abuses and 63 cases of rape of Filipino workers for just a period of one year from 2016. The President threatened to withdraw all overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait if another migrant Filipina worker dies from abuse.
The decision of Duterte to suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait “would likely do more harm than good, forcing workers to take greater risks to seek overseas employment while cutting off a critical source of income for families in the Philippines,” says Rothna Begum — a researcher from the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a report published by rappler. com Saturday, Begum was quoted as saying that based on the experience of other countries like Indonesia; deployment bans “do not end these abuses.”
“Instead, people desperate to work still migrate, but through unsafe and unregulated channels, leaving them more exposed to abuse and trafficking and making it more difficult to address abuses once they are working in the Middle East,” she explained.
Instead of a ban, Begum said the Philippines should demand for “stronger protections.” She pointed out the country should advocate an end to the “abusive” kafala (visa sponsorship) system wherein workers are prevented from leaving or changing jobs without the permission of the current employer.
“The Philippines should also call for better enforcement of labor protections and improved cooperation from Middle East governments to work with the Philippines embassy to help rescue workers in distress and conduct investigations into worker deaths,” Begum added.
On the other hand, Senator Joel Villanueva, who currently heads the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, called on the labor department to prepare a contingency plan for the affected workers.
“We support the President’s deployment ban to Kuwait, but we believe that this move must be accompanied with review and implementation of strict regulation,” said Villanueva. His statement came after Duterte mulled banning the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait upon learning about cases of sexual abuse in the Gulf state.
Following the deaths of seven Filipinos in Kuwait, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) stopped processing and issuing overseas employment certificates to all Kuwaitbound workers. Citing DOLE records, Villanueva said that, in just one year, there were reportedly 1,447 cases of maltreatment, 2,959 cases of contract violation, 227 sexual abuses, and 63 cases of rape of Filipino workers. The senator asked the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and Department of Foreign Affairs to “double their efforts” to protect Filipino workers. He also urged these government agencies to “immediately and effectively settle” cases of abuse faced by Filipinos abroad.