KUWAIT CITY, May 9: A Philippine delegation composed of Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and former DOLE Secretary and former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Marianito Roque arrived in Kuwait on Monday to meet with officials at the Kuwait Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and Ministry of Foreign Affairs toward the normalization of diplomatic relations between Kuwait and the Philippines.
The Philippine delegation was accompanied in its series of meetings with Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Interior Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour and Minister of State for Economic Development Hind Barrak Al- Subaih and Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Sulaiman Al-Jarrallah respectively by Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot and Philippine Labour Attache to Kuwait Rustico Dela Fuente. Roque and Bello announced on Wednesday during a press briefing some of the highlights of their meetings with the Kuwaiti officials.
The Kuwait Ministry of Interior agreed to create a Special Unit within the Police that the Philippine Embassy can liaison with regarding complaints of Filipino workers.
A Special Number or 24-hour Hotline will be established for Filipino workers needing assistance Over 500 of the 600 wards at the POLO-OWWA will be given exit clearance and will be allowed to go home and the Kuwait government will provide tickets. Around 150 will be flying out with Sec Roque, Sec Bello and Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Cayetano on May 11 and the rest will follow. Around 62 with pending cases will be left behind but will also follow once cases are cleared.
The Philippine delegation welcomed the latest development on the Domestic Workers or Visa 20 which used to be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and now it has been transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour which means better protection for the domestic workers. Kuwait agreed to the provisions stated in the MoA on the household service workers, that they be given day off, cellphones, good food and passport should be deposited to the embassy for safekeeping.
The signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on the protection and deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers to Kuwait between Kuwait and the Philippines is expected to be on May 11 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Once the MoA is signed, Sec Bello disclosed that he will recommend the partial lifting of the ban that would allow the deployment of Filipino skilled workers to Kuwait but not yet the household service workers. Sec Roque pointed out that the partial lifting of the ban will be subject to the approval of President Duterte. Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot welcomed all these positive developments that would eventually pave the way for the normalization of the diplomatic ties between Kuwait and the Philippines On his part, Philippine Labor Attache Rustico Dela Fuente welcomed the transfer of the domestic workers from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor that would benefit the more than 170,000 Filipino HSWs in Kuwait. Representatives of both countries still have to finalize the unified model employment contract.
Finally, talks is still ongoing for the exit clearance of the three diplomats who are facing warrant of arrest and Roque stated that hopefully if things go well, they can fly with the Philippine delegation on May 11. The four drivers who were earlier detained were all released and cleared by Kuwaiti authorities a day before the Philippine delegation arrived.
Bello and Roque thanked the Kuwaiti government for its warm reception as both countries move forward in mending the strained diplomatic ties due to the controversial rescue video that went viral online. They are set to visit the shelters and meet with the Filipino community on Thursday.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff