KUWAIT CITY, March 4: The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait led by Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa introduced the new Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait, Atty Alex Padaen to the leaders of various Filipino organisations in Kuwait on Friday at the embassy premises. “We are happy that finally we have a new labour attaché in Kuwait who can help us resolve cases of Filipinos in Kuwait, look into the welfare of OFWs and assure their well-being,” stated Villa.
Padaen who was posted previously in Jeddah and Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia thanked the Filipino leaders for the warm reception they accorded him. “I’m very glad to be here and I’m happy with the warm welcome that the Filipino community has given me. I just want us all to be united as one community so we can pursue our common goals of helping our fellow Filipinos in Kuwait,” stated Padaen in an interview with the Arab Times. He also thanked Villa for the warm reception and embassy’s support to POLO and its staff.
Spotted also during the occasion were Assistant Labour Attache Lily Pearl Guerrero, Vice Consul Charleson Hermosura, Welfare Officer Nestor Burayag, Administrative Officer Girlie Caba as well as other embassy and POLO-OWWA staff. Not new to the Middle East region, Padaen expressed his readiness to extend a helping hand to all OFWs in Kuwait amid the increasing number of distressed OFWs who run daily to the POLO-OWWA shelter to seek refuge from some of the abusive employers.
“During my term, I would push for the signing of the bilateral labour agreement between Kuwait and the Philippines for the protection and welfare of our Filipino workers. We will work closely with our counterpart in the Philippines and here in Kuwait to have both parties sign the agreement,” he stressed. He added that he will also try to reduce the increasing number of wards at the POLO-OWWA shelter. Currently, there are almost 300 wards at the centre who are mostly victims of physical, sexual or verbal abuse, fatigue, lack of food or non-payment of salary. “The zero-ward policy is good, it’s ideal but I believe that’s hard to achieve and unrealistic.
Moreover, it’s not a practical target, however, we will try our best to reduce the number of wards into a reasonable number, even just a double digit,” explained Padaen who hopes to coordinate closely and work hand in hand with Kuwaiti authorities along with the Philippine Embassy for the continuous repatriation of distressed OFWs. Amid the ongoing repatriation of distressed OFWs, a number of maltreated OFWs also run to the embassy shelter daily. The POLO record shows that for every ward repatriated daily, around five to seven also run to the embassy shelter everyday.
Meanwhile, Filipino leaders expressed their full support to the newly posted labour attaché and aired their expectations. “I do expect fairness, humility from him. Get the pulse of the masses and the needs of the Filipinos in Kuwait. We all know that Kuwait is a tough and colourful post with all the issues and problems of OFWs but we’re here to support him,” stated TROPA President Christopher Hernandez. Owners and representatives of manpower recruitment agencies also expressed their utmost support to Padaen. “Rest assured that we will support him and we will be the extended arm of the embassy in marketing skilled Filipino workers to quality employers. We just hope that under his leadership, the processing of job orders will be faster this time so employers will not be kept waiting for a long time,” pointed out PhilSoc-MSK Chairperson Ana Del Mundo.
One of the biggest challenges that Padaen will be facing in Kuwait is the problem of distressed Household Service Workers (HSWs) prompting various advocacy groups in Kuwait to call recently for a moratorium on the deployment of Filipino HSWs to Kuwait. “We hope that the new labour attaché will really look into the problems of distressed HSWs especially those who have been abused or maltreated severely. We hope that he will be able to do his job in the best interest of all Filipinos in Kuwait,” stated Ann Abunda, the Founder and Chair of SANDIGAN, an OFW advocacy group based in Kuwait that has been helping distressed HSWs. On his part, Padaen vowed to maintain an open line of communication and be transparent in all his dealings as he espoused on everyone’s cooperation during his tenure in Kuwait.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff