February 25, 2018, 12:34 am
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Kuwait warns Duterte on OFW pullout order

KUWAIT. – A top Kuwaiti official condemned on Tuesday a call by President Duterte to evacuate his country’s workers from Kuwait, suggesting Duterte could damage ties between the two countries.

Duterte said last week that his government would ask private airlines to evacuate Filipinos from Kuwait within 72 hours, after the discovery of the dead body of a Filipino migrant worker in a freezer.

Two planes full of workers arrived in Manila from Kuwait on Monday on flights provided for free by commercial airlines at the President’s request. On Sunday, the Philippine labor secretary said more than 2,200 Filipinos were ready to take up Duterte’s offer.

“We are surprised and we condemn statements from the Philippine president, especially as we are in contact with the Philippines on a high level to explain the workers’ conditions in Kuwait,” said Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting in Kuwait of the global coalition against Islamic State.

“Escalation does not serve the ties between Kuwait and the Philippines,” Sheikh Sabah said, adding that 170,000 Filipinos “live a decent life in Kuwait ... but separate accidents unfortunately happen, and we are providing our Filipino counterparts with the results of the investigations.”

The Philippines suspended sending workers to Kuwait in January after reports that abuse by employers had driven several to suicide.

Two days after announcing a total deployment ban to Kuwait, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) decided to limit the ban to new hires.

“The deployment ban covers all types of workers being deployed for the first time for overseas employment in Kuwait, without distinction to skill, profession, or type of work,” said DOLE Administrative Order No 54-A-2018.

DOLE, however, opted to adopt a mechanism that shall counter-check if exempted OFWs are indeed returnees or Balik-Manggagawa by requiring prior clearance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has deployed Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to Kuwait and hired additional local personnel to fast-track the repatriation of an increasing number of OFWs availing of Kuwait’s amnesty program.

“The sudden influx of amnesty seekers has necessitated the hiring of an additional temporary local hires by the Embassy as well as the deployment of a Rapid Response Team to adequately and efficiently address this need,” said the DFA.

Other teams will soon be on their way to augment Embassy ground personnel in facilitating the repatriation process. 

As of the latest count, the DFA said there are already 522 Filipinos who have been repatriated, including the 116 Filipinos who arrived from Kuwait last Tuesday.

“Filipinos returning to the Philippines from Kuwait include those who have overstayed or escaped from their employers, as well as those reported to have been abused,” said the DFA.

Aside from assisting in repatriation efforts, the DFA has also been extending a cash pantawid assistance of P5,000 for each of the returning Filipinos from Kuwait. – Gerard Naval and Reuters
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