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Saturday , August 8 2020

Kuwait, Philippines ink labor pact

Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (left), and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah shake hands after signing an agreement at Kuwait’s foreign ministry in Kuwait City on May 11. Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal on May 11 to regulate domestic workers, after a dispute between the two countries led to a ban on Filipino workers in the country. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY, May 12: “We can probably have a partial lifting of the ban with respect to skilled workers and professionals before Ramadan,” disclosed on Saturday Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III to the Arab Times.

Bello made this announcement before he left for Manila on Saturday with the Philippine delegation following the signing on Friday of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on the Employment of Domestic Workers between the Philippines and Kuwait. Kuwait and the Philippines on Friday signed an agreement on employing household helpers.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al- Hamad Al-Sabah and the visiting Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed the accord. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled received the Filipino counterpart at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry and the two sides held talks on promoting bilateral cooperation in all fields.

They reiterated the historical ties between Kuwait and the Philippines, expressing readiness to overcome the “exceptional circumstances” of bilateral relations over the past weeks. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled held a luncheon banquet for the Filipino Secretary and his accompanying delegation.

The talks were attended by Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah and Assistant Foreign Minister for Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled’s Office Ambassador Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, and senior officials at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry, together with each country’s ambassador to the other. The Filipino delegation also included Bello, Special Presidential Envoy Abdullah Mamao and Presidential Advisor and Spokesman Harry Roque.

The eight-page MoA signed by Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Khaled and Cayetano aims to provide better protection for Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) in Kuwait. Bello together with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and former Labor Secretary Marianito Roque flew back together with some 87 distressed OFWs at the POLO-OWWA shelters.

All the tickets of the repatriates were shouldered by the Kuwait government. Currently, there are 482 wards at the shelter who are set to go home pending their exit clearances as earlier promised by the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to their Philippine counterpart.

Bello reiterated that the partial lifting of the deployment will only be on the newly hired skilled workers while the deployment ban on newly hired HSWs will stay in effect. “For the household service workers, we still have to see the immediate effect of the signed MoA. I will first recommend the partial lifting on the deployment ban on skilled workers and professionals and I will submit this recommendation to the President,” he stated.

Among the provisions of the deal are the creation of a 24/7 hotline where Filipino workers may report abuses and a special police unit to respond to such complaints. Stated also in the MoA, the employer shall provide the domestic worker with sufficient food, clothing, medical insurance, treatment, shall open a bank account for salary, allow the domestic workers to have and use cellular phones and other means to communicate with their families and passport should not be in the possession of the employer, among others. “All’s well that ends well,” described Cayetano as to the positive outcome on the MoA signing before leaving for Bahrain on Friday in high spirit to meet with the Bahraini government officials and Filipino community there.

“To God be all the glory. We have been praying for this, that we have make a stand, that we have a President who does not only say that you’re heroes but also treat you as one. With our talks here in Kuwait, it’s really different when you talk face-face and everything went well,” stated Cayetano.

Cayetano admitted that Kuwait and the Philippines had a tough time amid the diplomatic row. However, both sides are all set to mend the strained ties and move forward. “It was a painful experience to go through this with our relationship with Kuwait but it’s well worth it because we have to tell the whole world that as long the Filipino is out there, the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the DoLE will be there for you.

Our Kuwaiti counterparts not only know this but understand it. Certain events were blown up maybe in the Philippines and here including the use of social media so we’re doing all the investigation and inquiry on both sides. I think we’re on the way to building a stronger relationship that will benefit all Filipinos in Kuwait,” pointed out Cayetano.

Cayetano also thanked the Kuwaiti officials, President Rodrigo Duterte, Presidential Adviser on OFWs Secretary Abdullah Mamao, Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot, Philippine Labour Attache Rustico Dela Fuente and OFWs in their efforts to reach an agreement. “We are also grateful for the patience and kind understanding of our counterparts. We thank them for their willingness to work with us to achieve our shared goals. Lastly, we thank our more than 10 million Filipinos overseas, especially those in Kuwait — our new heroes or bagong bayani — who are the ones our government has vowed to protect and whose well-being we will continue to promote,” he stated.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah has said that Kuwait cherishes the more than five-decade close bilateral ties with the Philippines. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled told a press conference at the Foreign Ministry Friday that he and the visiting Cayetano, and an accompanying delegation, held fruitful talks and reviewed the framework of bilateral cooperation in all fields and on all levels. He added that they had signed an agreement on employing household helpers demonstrating eagerness to overcome the consequences of the recent “exceptional circumstances” in bilateral ties.

The minister noted that Kuwait is hosting up to 250,000 Filipinos, and appreciates their valuable contributions to all fields and sectors in the country. He also reiterated Kuwait’s keenness on security and safety of all expat communities in the country, about 195 nationalities, enjoying dignified living conditions. He stressed that Kuwaitis and non- Kuwaitis are all protected by law and granted due legal advantages and guarantees.

The fact that Filipino President dispatched Foreign Affairs Secretary, Secretary of Labor and Employment and his Special Presidential Envoy, to Kuwait in one week, reflected keenness on having normal ties with Kuwait. Kuwait is very eager to reciprocate and to overcome the recent events, focusing on consolidating ties with the Philippines, he said. The two sides discussed an action plan for a visit by Duterte to Kuwait in the near future, the minister noted. They also agreed on the “necessity of the presence of two ambassadors in the capital of each.”

For his part, Cayetano conveyed the President Duterte’s greetings to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah. He also commended the “fruitful” meeting he and an accompanying delegation held with Sheikh Sabah Al- Khaled. The two sides discussed, and settled, a host of pending issues between the two nations, and agreed on the necessity of proceeding ahead on backing and promoting bilateral relations, Secretary Cayetano said, noting that Kuwait assisted Philippines much in the past.

He also revealed that his country would soon name a new ambassador to Kuwait, saying that many problems were caused by poor contacts and misunderstanding “but the strength of historical bilateral ties will overcome this.” The two countries have agreed on further enhancing these ties and discussing all pending issues, as well as cooperating on files and topics on common concern, especially the challenges the world is facing, with terrorism on top.

According to Cayetano, the President stresses the necessity of conforming to the laws enforced in host countries. He also quashed press reports attributing false information to Filipino offi- cials on Kuwait, saying they had never said Kuwait was a bad place to work in. Ninety-nine percent of the Filipino community in Kuwait do not face problems, and few cases cannot be generalized, Cayetano added, noting that they encourage Filipinos to work in Kuwait and contribute to its development.



By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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