Sen­a­tors wel­come end of de­ploy­ment ban to Kuwait

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By MARVIN SY With Mayen Jay­ma­lin

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.

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