Friday , February 22 2019

PHILIPPINES AMBASSADOR DENIES CRISIS – Hope for extension of amnesty period

We can solve this: Envoy

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro O Villa

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 1: Ambassador of the Philippines to Kuwait HE Renato Pedro O. Villa denied the existence of a diplomatic crisis between the Philippines and Kuwait following the issuance of statements by the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte concerning the conditions of the Filipino community in Kuwait, and the decision taken by the Philippines’ Ministry of Labor to suspend sending workers to Kuwait until it is informed about the reasons behind the death of seven Filipino expatriates in December 2017, reports Al-Anba daily.

The ambassador clarified that this matter is a solvable problem and the two countries will be able to find suitable solutions in light of the friendly relations between Kuwait and the Philippines, indicating that the President followed up the issue via social media. He explained that three of the Filipinos had committed suicide and two died due to bad ventilation in the living room.

Also, a Filipino expatriate had killed a female compatriot out of jealousy and he later died while fleeing from the site of the crime when he either jumped or fell from the seventh floor of the building. Ambassador O. Villa revealed he asked Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Consul Affairs Ambassador Sami Al-Hamad for a copy of the investigations report on the seven death cases during a meeting held after he was summoned to the ministry.

He praised the statements issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify that Kuwait has no intention to cancel the residence permits of Filipino expatriates, and affirm the continuity of friendly relations between Kuwait and the Philippines.

The ambassador expressed happiness for the amnesty period declared by Ministry of Interior for residency law violators to either leave the country without paying fines or amend their legal status.

He explained that there are around 10,000 Filipino violators of residency law including 7,000 employees of the private sector.

Among them, 500 are not willing to amend their status and prefer to leave Kuwait. About 2,000 of the total Filipino violators of residency law want to make use of the amnesty period to leave Kuwait.

Indicating that the three-week amnesty period is not enough for those who seek to amend their legal status, the ambassador urged Ministry of Interior to extend the period in order to allow as many violators as possible to benefit from the amnesty.

In his response to a question concerning the statements issued by President Duterte which have been described as “aggressive”, Ambassador O. Villa stressed that politicians often have their own ways of dealing with issues, highlighting the keenness of President Duterte to defend the rights of Filipino citizens who work outside the Philippines.

Regarding the Filipino community in Kuwait, the ambassador explained that there are about 262,000 Filipino expatriates working in Kuwait, as per reports of Ministry of Interior. About two thirds of them work as domestic workers, and 3.6 percent of them have problems with their employers.

However, this rate is small compared to the large number of Filipino expatriates in Kuwait. He thanked Ministry of Interior for their cooperation in dealing with every case of abuse of Filipino expatriates in Kuwait.

In response to a question concerning the role played by social media in blowing up the issue, Ambassador O. Villa said, “Individual cases are highlighted on social media. However, these cases were not fabricated. There are higher possibility for such issues to be brought to light in Kuwait compared to other Gulf countries due to higher freedom and openness in Kuwait”.

He indicated that the decision to suspend sending Filipino workers to Kuwait is still valid; however, Filipino residents of Kuwait who were spending their vacation in the Philippines are allowed to return to Kuwait. Ambassador O. Villa revealed that a total of 5,300 Filipino laborers were reported as absconding by their employers during the years 2016 and 2017, indicating that the embassy receives about five to ten absconding cases on a daily basis.

He explained that the laborers escape due to different reasons including physical and mental abuse, violation of the provisions of labor contracts, sexual harassment, weak health and homesickness. The total number of sexual harassment and abuse cases is approximately 100.

Ambassador O. Villa indicated that a meeting will be held between officials from foreign ministries of both Kuwait and the Philippines this month, insisting that the meeting was set prior to the emergence of the recent issue. He affirmed that the embassy exerts tremendous efforts to inform Filipino residents about their rights and evaluates the situation of the Filipino community in Kuwait on a daily basis, indicating that ten percent of them have low educational qualifications. Ambassador O. Villa expressed hope that the current issue will be resolved soon.

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