KUWAIT CITY, March 24: A Philippine delegation from the Department of Foreign Affairs led by Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola is set to arrive in Kuwait on March 29 to meet with Kuwait officials, disclosed on Saturday Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa.
The visit is part of the ongoing efforts of Kuwait and the Philippines to further discuss issues on the welfare and protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) amid the deployment ban on newly hired Filipino workers bound for Kuwait.
Villa cited that Arriola will be meeting with her counterpart to follow up matters that were discussed recently during the joint bilateral talks between Kuwait and the Philippines that was held in Manila.
She will also meet with the Filipino community to check on their current situation in the country and to get their input on the issue on the deployment ban and other matters.
The Ambassador added that there would be a second round of joint bilateral talks by next month or before the Holy Month of Ramadan to finalize the provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement on the Protection and Deployment of Filipino Workers to Kuwait as the two countries move forward for its signing, “So far both parties have agreed on the matter of passport that it should be kept by the worker or be deposited at the Philippine Embassy for safekeeping as it is a property of the Republic of the Philippines, however, both parties still have to further discuss and finalize the Unified Contract for Filipino Household Service Workers and that’s the top agenda for the second round of talks which will be scheduled by both parties and will be held in Kuwait,” explained Villa.
Meanwhile, Consul General Noordin Pendosina Lomondot has called on all undocumented Filipinos to file their amnesty application on or before April 12, 2018 to give the embassy ample time to process their travel documents and exit clearance before the deadline on April 22, 2018. “We have set the cut-off date on April 12 to register for repatriation. So far, we have repatriated over 4,000 undocumented OFWs and that’s 65 per cent of the number that we have targeted at the onset of the amnesty,” stated Lomondot.
There are around 10,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Kuwait based on the records of the Ministry of Interior and the embassy is targeting to repatriate at least 7,000 undocumented OFWs. Meanwhile, there are around 1,000 distressed OFWs who are currently at the POLO-OWWA shelter who are mostly victims of various forms of physical, verbal or sexual abuse, unpaid salaries, lack of food or overwork, awaiting their repatriation with the help of the Philippine Embassy in coordination with the Kuwait authorities.
Currently, there are around 250,000 documented OFWs and 165,000 of them are working as household service workers. The Philippine bishops’ commission on migrant care is pressing the government to ensure that a deal about to be struck with Kuwait guaranteeing protection for Filipino workers, most of whom are maids, is adhered to, reports UCAnews.com.
Philippine and Kuwaiti officials approved this week the final draft of a memorandum of understanding on such a deal, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to add more provisions. “I demanded that it will be a contract of government to government and that there will be some mandatory provisions, like they should be allowed to sleep at least seven hours a day,” said the president.
Aside from provisions on sleeping hours, Duterte also wanted Filipino workers to be served “nutritious food” and be allowed a weekly break and days off during holidays. He said employers should also not seize and withhold workers’ passports. “I said, if this does not push through … then you’ll just have to forgive me. There will be no lifting of the ban,” said the president on March 21.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Episcopal Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said the government should see to it that the provisions in the proposed deal are implemented. “Once signed, we appeal that our government officials monitor that [the agreement] is strictly followed,” said the prelate, adding that church leaders support the deal proposals because “they are beneficial” to Filipino workers.
Bishop Santos said the bishops particularly support the provision allowing Filipino workers to keep their passports. “It is just fair and legal that our [migrant workers] keep their passports, to have and use cellphones, and enjoy days off,” said the prelate. He said church leaders also support the part of the proposed deal that does not allow employers change contracts once the migrant workers reach their destination.
Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the agreement is to be signed by Philippine and Kuwaiti officials in two weeks. Considering the extended period of ban on deployment to Kuwait, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is set to give cash assistance to affected overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), reports Al-Qabas quoting sunstar.com.
On his Twitter account, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the government of the Philippines has approved the cash assistance for OFWs affected by the deployment ban to Kuwait. “There will be cash assistance to those affected by the ban on OFW deployment to Kuwait as long as they are OWWA members and had Kuwait work visa as of Feb 12, 2018,” said Cacdac, referring to the OWWA Board Resolution 14/2018. He said 5,000 pesos cash assistance will be handed over to active members and 2,500 pesos for inactive members. “They can get further information through the nearest OWWA regional offices for the cash assistance,” said Cacdac.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies