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Palace: Kuwait releases Pinoy drivers in rescue, to sign MOA on OFWs

The Kuwaiti government has agreed to release the four Filipino drivers who were detained after figuring in the Philippine embassy's recent controversial rescue of distressed overseas Filipino workers in the gulf state.

According to the presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Kuwait has also agreed to sign a memorandum of agreement meant to protect Filipino migrants.

These developed following a meeting between Filipino and Kuwaiti officials on Wednesday. 

Present at the meeting with officials of the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry were Roque Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III, former Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, Labor Attaché Rustico dela Fuente, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuwait Mohd Noordin Lomondot.

"The Philippine delegation met officials from the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry where the Philippines and Kuwait look forward to the normalization of ties," Roque said in a statement.   

"Kuwait, on its part, has expressed the value of Filipinos in Kuwait. A Memorandum of Agreement is expected to be signed and agreed upon after the meeting," he added.

The four detained Filipino drivers hired by the Philippine Embassy to rescue distressed OFWs were also released as a result of the meeting. 

"It guaranteed that all remaining undocumented Filipinos (under 600), except for those with pending cases, will be allowed to go home. At least 150 of them will be joining the Philippine officials in returning to the Philippines," Roque said.

May 11 signing

After the meeting, Philippine officials announced that the agreement is scheduled to be signed on May 11.

Roque said Kuwait agreed to create a special police unit that the Philippine Embassy can liaison with regarding complaints of Filipino workers and a 24-hour hotline that OFWs can call for assistance.

"Nasa agreement din po 'yung di kukumpiskahin 'yung employer 'yung passport, idedeposit po ito sa Philippine Embassy, nandito po ito sa memorandum of agreement, nandiyan po 'yung one week na day off, at 'yung tulog na minimum po ay seven hours a day," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

"Now 'yung pagkain po, hindi talaga nakasulat na pwede sila magluto pero nakasulat doon 'yung obligasyon na kailangan bigyan ng disenteng pagkain at tulugan 'yung ating mga kababayan," he added.

"'Yung pagkakaroon po ng cellphone, 'yung pamamaraan para matawagan nila ang hotline kung meron silang problema o kaya naman sila ay inaapi."

Rescue video

The Philippines had been ironing out an agreement with Kuwait on the protection and welfare of OFWs following the death of several Filipinos in the Middle Eastern nation, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer.

However, videos of the rescue of Filipinos by Philippine Embassy staff from their Kuwaiti employers circulated, angering the Kuwaiti government which viewed the act as a violation of its sovereignty and decried what it called as “inappropriate behavior” by the diplomatic staff.

Kuwait also expelled Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa from Kuwait and recalled its envoy in Manila.

Following Kuwait’s decision, Duterte urged the thousands of Filipinos there to come home, adding that he will use the P4-billion aid from China to create more job opportunities in the country. —with Anna Felicia Bajo/NB/JST, GMA News