Kuwait sees room to maneuver – ‘Manila appears more flexible’

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KUWAIT CITY, May 14: In the face of Kuwait’s strictness to put pressure on Manila’s decision to lift the ban imposed on the travel of Filipino domestic workers, the Philippines Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Eduardo de Vega, said, “We have not decided yet to lift the ban, but this doesn’t mean we won’t do that while at the same time showing remarkable flexibility regarding Kuwait’s position on the suspension of new entry visas for its workers, reports Al-Jarida daily. To lift the ban imposed on the deployment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, in reference to the conditions Manila had set since last February, and its decision to stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait except under “certain conditions,” De Vega said, in a televised interview, that “Kuwait’s response to the ban will not include all other workers, with the exception of domestic workers,” pointing out that “Kuwait’s response and pressure on us in this way is a message for us to reconsider our decision,” reports Al-Jarida daily.

Employment agreement violations according to the Philippine Foreign Ministry’s undersecretary, “There were two recurring issues that the Kuwaiti government was concerned about related to the bilateral labor agreement between the two countries,” adding that “the first issue is the initiative to establish a shelter for runaway Filipino domestic workers, and efforts to reach out to Kuwaiti employers regarding reports of violations.” He explained that “Kuwait considered these verbal efforts as violations of labor laws, while the establishment of a shelter for Filipinos who flee their employers due to violations is not supported under Kuwaiti law, but it is permissible under Philippine law.” He added, “They say, under Kuwaiti law, there should be no shelter for runaway workers, but under Philippine law, we should have these shelters, and of course it is the duty of the Philippine government to protect them.”

He explained, “We do not encourage them to run away from their employers, and this is what they fear, but in the event of abuse and that they have to leave, they must have a place to go to,” said Vega. “We haven’t decided to lift the ban at the moment but that doesn’t mean we won’t. As for the second issue that they were complaining about, it is that whenever there is a complaint about labor abuse, the Philippine government requires the foreign recruitment agency for the worker in Kuwait to contact the employer, and this also does not apply under Kuwaiti law.”

“While Kuwait refers to these issues as violations, they are not clearly defined in the agreement between our two countries. Whether they are violations or not, however, it is something that the two governments need to discuss to solve the problem,” he noted. Referring to the meetings that were held with the participation of the “Congress”, in the hope of making recommendations to the Philippine president, de Vega said, “The decision to lift the ban will remain under discussion by the relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Migrant Workers,” referring to that “the Philippines will not lift the ban it imposed only in this way, as the country is still seeking justice in the death of Jullibee Ranara, the domestic worker, who was killed by her employer’s son and her body burned and thrown into the desert.” He stressed that “this ban was imposed because of the heinous crime” committed against one of our citizens. Despite his assertion that “the lifting of the ban at the present time has not yet been decided,” he hinted that “this does not mean that we will not do that,” explaining that “this matter cannot be permanent, but we have to sit down and discuss.”

He explained that “meetings will be held with Kuwaiti officials this month, as it is expected that the two countries will resume the terms of the current bilateral agreement,” noting that “what will happen is that we will resume and they will resume.” I’m sure there will be a reciprocal appeal. Therefore, we may have to make some revisions to the work agreement, or we may come up with a new working paper on how to move forward. The Philippine Foreign undersecretary also said that “while the suspension of issuing entry visas to Filipinos to Kuwait includes all workers, its impact is not huge,” explaining that “for those who go to Kuwait, there are not many non-domestic workers who are now working there.” He added, “For those who are already there and have residence permit, they will be allowed to return to their homes, and then return to Kuwait.” According to him, “There are currently between 275,000 and 300,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, and almost all of them have residence permits” pointing out at the same time that “between 5 and 10,000 Filipinos do not hold documents.”

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