The Philippines has partially lifted its ban on sending overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“The lifting of the deployment ban for skilled and semi-skilled workers to Kuwait is the next step in the normalization of diplomatic ties with Kuwait,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters after returning from the country on Saturday.
Roque’s comments, which only came to light in local media reports yesterday, mean the Philippines will once more deploy “skilled” and “semi-skilled” workers to the Gulf nation where more than 250,000 Filipinos work, many as domestic workers.
For now, the ban still applies to domestic workers as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) works on reforms in its recruitment process.
“There will be a mandatory training, to be paid by the recruiters, since they are the ones earning from the recruitment fee that they charge to the Kuwaitis wanting to employ domestic workers,” Roque said.
The decision to partially lift the ban comes after the two countries signed a memorandum of agreement to strengthen the rights of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait.
The pact requires that contract renewals be approved by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office first instead of being automatically renewed.
Domestic workers should also be allowed to keep their passports and cell phones and not have them confiscated by the employers, a common practice in the country.
A 24/7 hotline for Filipino worker complaints will also be created.
Last week, Duterte said that he was open to lifting the ban as long as Kuwait complies with the Philippine government’s demands.
“If these demands are complied with, such as no physical abuse against Filipinos — and if there are complaints, there should be a special police for abused Filipinos and they should be able to call us — then I’m OK [with it],” he said in Filipino.
This contradicts a statement he made just last month when he said that the deployment ban would be in place “permanently.”
In January, the DOLE stopped deploying Filipinos to Kuwait after the deaths of seven migrant workers.
In February, the body of Filipino domestic worker Joanna Demafelis was found inside a freezer. Her employers, who were the prime suspects in the case, were nabbed later that month and sentenced to death in March.
Relations between the two countries worsened when a video showing Philippine embassy employees rescuing a distressed OFW surfaced online, an act the Kuwait government thought violated its sovereignty and diplomatic protocols.
This led to Kuwait expelling the Philippines’ ambassador and recalling its envoy from Manila.
However, Roque said both countries are open to easing tensions.
“There has been a declaration between the two countries to end the rift and we will move on,” he said.