The Philippine government has insisted it did not violate its 2018 bilateral labor agreement (BLA) with Kuwait, as the establishment of shelters for distressed OFWs is guaranteed under the accord between the two countries, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.
At the News Forum in Quezon City, DFA Assistant Secretary Paul Cortes said that there is a provision in the 2018 BLA that the Philippine embassy in Kuwait can operate shelters within its complex.
“In our laws, kailangan natin magtatag ng shelters para sa kababayan natin na humihingi ng tulong,” Cortes said, citing the Republic Act No. 8942.
RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 mandates the establishment of migrant workers and overseas Filipinos resource centers within the premises and under the administrative jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in countries where there are large concentrations of Filipino migrant workers.
Secretary Cortes made the remark after the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry’s announcement of temporary suspension of issuing visas to Filipinos due to some supposed violations by the Philippine government on the bilateral agreement between the two countries.
Reportedly, the Kuwaiti government wants to remove the shelters for runaway household workers because these are not allowed under its laws.
Cortes, however, clarified that the Kuwaiti government has not officially communicated to the Philippines the supposed violations.
On Friday, DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said that the suspension of issuing new visas was Kuwait’s response to the Philippines’ deployment ban of new household workers in the Arab state in February.
The deployment ban was imposed on Kuwait following the death of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Julleebee Ranara, and other cases of maltreatment of OFWs.
Also, the Philippine government is studying the possible lifting of the deployment ban on Kuwait.
Cortes said a Philippine delegation composed of officials from the DFA and Department of Migrant Workers will visit Kuwait “between now and the end of the month” to resolve the issue and find out what are the violations of the Philippines concerning its BLA with the Kuwaiti government.
Nonetheless, the DFA official said that as far as the establishment of shelters is concerned “wala tayong nilabag” (we have no violation).
“We have that in our law to operate shelters within our jurisdiction which is an embassy or consulate,” Cortes said.
According to the DFA, there are between 275,000 to 300,000 documented Filipinos in Kuwait, of which around 70% are household workers and 30% are non-household workers. —LBG, GMA Integrated News