Following the decision of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to restrict the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Kuwait last month, the Kuwaiti government appears to be ready to sign a new bilateral agreement with the Philippine government to improve the welfare of Filipino workers within its territory.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said he was approached by the Kuwaiti ambassador to discuss the signing of the new bilateral agreement.
“The ambassador assured me that as soon as I will lift the deployment restriction, I would go to Kuwait to sign the bilateral agreement,” Bello told reporters in an ambush interview.
Suspension of Kuwait bound OFW
On January 19 the DOLE suspended the processing of overseas employment certificates (OEC) for Filipinos bound for Kuwait pending the result of its investigation on the “suspicious” deaths of seven Filipinos in the said Arab country in previous months.
A day before the suspension, the issue was also raised by President Duterte during his speech at the launch of the Overseas Filipino Bank.
Bello said he will only lift the suspension if the report will show the welfare of the deceased OFWs were protected by the Kuwaiti government.
Bello added he already got an initial report on the said cases from their labor attache in Kuwait last Friday based on the findings of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Ministry of Interior of Kuwait (MIK).
Death of seven OFWs
However, Bello said he had ordered the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Institute of Labor Affairs Bureau to conduct another report on the matter to clarify the “contradicting” findings of the DFA and the MIK on the cause of death of the seven OFWs.
“I also told him labor attaché to also include his findings and recommendations on the matter,” Bello added.
The labor chief said he expects the final report to be submitted to him this week.
“So anytime this week, we would be coming up with our decision on whether to make the suspension a ban or to lift it depending on the report. Of course in close coordination with the office of the President, who will have the final say,” Bello added.
“We would like to appeal to our future OFWs, who have pending applications for the OEC to wait for a bit more because I would want to be sure that if we would deploy them in Kuwait they would be in safe hands,” Bello said.
Since DOLE implemented the deployment restriction, Bello noted the Kuwaiti government has shown more concern for the welfare of OFWs there.
“Because of the action from our part and the President’s, the Kuwaiti government declared an amnesty for about 500 of our OFWs that is why we are now repatriating them slowly,” Bello said.
Bello said about 91 of these have been repatriated by their recruiters.
Migrant advocates and the recruitment industry earlier expressed their opposition on the deployment restriction since it would delay the deployment of aspiring OFWs to Kuwait.