Govt needs to do more to ensure OFWs’ safety
MANILA, May 17: The Filipino Senators Thursday supported the move by their President for the total lifting of the deployment ban to Kuwait, according to GMA News online.
However, they are of the opinion that the government must do more to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipinos sent to Kuwait.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the total ban “can and should be lifted,” but the government still must observe a limited ban on sending household service workers (HSWs) to Kuwait.
“Let us allow the sending of engineers, managers, drivers, construction workers, etc, but not household service workers,” Pimentel said in a text message to reporters.
He has been pushing for the total deployment ban on Filipinos working as domestic helpers in countries that do not respect migrant workers.
The deployment of Filipinos to Kuwait was suspended in January amid reports of maltreatment as well as the deaths of seven OFWs in Kuwait.
In February 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the ban would stay following the discovery of the body of Joanna Demafelis and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a total ban some days later.
Relations between the Philippines and Kuwait deteriorated further after a video of Philippine diplomatic staff rescuing abused OFWs went viral online, with the Kuwaiti government protesting what it called the diplomatic staff’s “inappropriate behavior.”
Despite Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s apology to the Kuwaiti government, Ambassador Renato Villa was expelled, leading to Duterte’s call for a permanent ban on sending workers to Kuwait.
Senate labor committee chairman Joel Villanueva said with the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) “we hope that we can totally prevent abuses against our OFWs, especially to our household services workers who are vulnerable to abuse.”
He reiterated the need to push for the professionalization of household service workers and the free exercise of their rights in host countries consistent with the ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work, which the country actively campaigned for.
Villanueva said during a meeting Wednesday, Labor Secretary Sylvester Bello III assured them that there will be better working conditions for OFWs. One of the things they tackled during the meeting was the establishment of an OFW Hotline open 24/7.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the lifting of the ban is the logical step forward after the signing of the landmark MOU, and will help strengthen relations with Kuwait.
“Despite the lifting of the ban, however, the government must remain dedicated to working with the Kuwaiti government in ensuring that the rights of OFWs in Kuwait are recognized and upheld,” he said.
He said government agencies should pursue a tighter crackdown against illegal recruitment and consistently maintain an updated database of accredited recruiters in order to monitor the outflow of OFWs, monitor their conditions, and devise further strategies to safeguard their rights and welfare.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said that while the development is welcome news to the 260,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, he is all the more determined to push for his bill seeking to increase and institutionalize an Overseas Legal Assistance Fund for distressed OFWs.