Impasse in Kuwait-Philippines talks: Shelters pose hurdle

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KUWAIT CITY, Dec 25: The recent discussions between Kuwait and the Philippines, hosted by Kuwait and involving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Public Authority for Manpower, and a visiting Philippine delegation, did not yield the desired outcomes in reconciling differences to lift the ban on sending domestic workers from Manila, reports Al-Jarida daily.

Specialist in domestic labor affairs, Bassam Al-Shammari, highlighted that while the initial days of talks showed progress and friendliness, they ultimately failed to produce positive results.

Despite early optimism and the resolution of outstanding issues, the impasse arose due to the Philippine side’s insistence on the continued operation of embassy shelters in Kuwait.

Kuwait rejected this request on legal grounds, preventing the anticipated decision to lift the ban. Al-Shammari disclosed that the Philippine side intends to extend an official invitation to Kuwait for bilateral discussions in Manila shortly.

Al-Shammari warned that if the government in the Philippines insists on the continued operation of embassy shelters, negotiations may fail, returning both nations to square one.

Kuwait reiterated its stance on the closure of these shelters as a prerequisite for considering the lifting of the ban on Filipino workers. The recent moratorium decisions issued by both countries remain in effect.

During the negotiations, the Philippine side expressed reservations about the operations of expatriate worker shelters under Public Authority for Manpower citing issues such as prolonged worker absences, the absence of a clear mechanism for restoring workers’ financial rights, and concerns regarding end-of-service benefits and late monthly salaries.

Al-Shammari emphasized the importance of signing more memorandums of understanding with labor-exporting countries, including Nepal, Indonesia, Ethiopia, to diversify options and reduce recruitment costs, especially with the approaching holy month of Ramadan.

The ban on Filipino workers was imposed in May following reported violations, including housing workers in private accommodations, violating residency laws, and pressuring domestic worker recruitment offices to intervene in contract completion procedures. The ban also addressed improper treatment of citizens during embassy reviews and inappropriate actions during the renewal of contracts.

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