Senators welcome end of deployment ban to Kuwait
Senators welcomed the lifting of the total deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait as they hoped that domestic helpers would now be given adequate protection against abuses.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Philippines and Kuwait on the protection of Filipino workers would put an end to the abuses committed against Filipina domestic workers.
“That is welcome news for our 260,000 OFWs in Kuwait. (I am) hoping that the MOU signed between (the Philippines) and Kuwait will protect our OFWs, specially our domestic workers who are prone to abuse and maltreatment,” Ejercito said, adding that this gives him the determination to push the bill to increase and institutionalize an Overseas Legal Assistance Fund for distressed OFWs.
Sen. 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 our Kuwaiti allies.”
“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,” Gatchalian said.
He also urged local government agencies to pursue a tighter crackdown against illegal recruitment and consistently maintain an updated database of accredited recruiters to monitor the outflow of OFWs and their conditions, and to devise more strategies to safeguard their rights and welfare.
Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development chairman Joel Villanueva said he would push for the professionalization of domestic helpers and the free exercise of their rights in host countries consistent with the ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Work.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, while welcoming the decision to lift the ban, said he would want to “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 HSWs,” Pimentel said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he already signed yesterday the department order to officially lift the total ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.
“They can leave anytime once all the necessary papers (for deployment) have been cleared,” Bello told reporters, noting that the lifting of the deployment ban is effective immediately.
Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment (POEA), he said about 5,000 are ready for deployment to Kuwait while over 15,000 are under process.
He recalled having recommended a partial lifting to allow the deployment of skilled and professional workers only, but President Duterte opted to reopen the Kuwaiti market even for domestic helpers.
“Apparently, the President was impressed by the gesture of the Kuwait government when they agreed to sign the MOU and they also complied with the condition that justice should be given to Joanna Demafelis,” Bello disclosed.
He noted that even in the absence of Demafelis’ suspect killers, the Kuwait government put them on trial, convicted and imposed the maximum penalty of death by hanging.
“That merely showed that the Kuwaiti government is sincere in its efforts to provide protection for OFWs, plus the fact that when we were there they were very cordial and accepted all the requests we made,” Bello added.
Before signing the MOU, Bello said, the Kuwaiti government agreed to repatriate and shoulder the cost of sending home 600 undocumented OFWs and release three Filipino diplomats who were arrested following the controversial rescue of distressed HSWs.
According to Bello, there is a wrong perception that many Kuwaiti employers are abusing and maltreating their Filipino HSWs.
“Records showed that only 1.7 percent of the 170,000 Filipino HSWs are victims of abuse and maltreatment, but these incidents are being highlighted more than the success stories ,”Bello pointed out.
Even with the agreement with the Kuwaiti government already in place, Bello said the Philippines would be stricter in the processing and deployment of workers.
“We will make sure that OFWs have been properly trained prior to deployment and we will require agencies to have their own training centers accredited by TESDA,” he added.