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Deployment ban to remain between Kuwait and Philippines
March 31, 2018, 2:46 pm
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No final agreement has been reached….still lots left to be done

Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs Atty. Sarah Lou Arriola was in Kuwait to oversee the progress of Filipino workers availing amnesty program of Kuwait. Arriola met with journalists to answer questions pertaining to several issues and concerns involving Filipino migrant workers and the embassy. Arriola affirmed that no final agreement has been reached between both countries and that deployment ban for Filipino workers will remain. The Times interviewed Atty. Arriola regarding pressing issues involving OFWs in Kuwait:

The Times: What is the purpose of your visit to Kuwait?

Atty. Arriola: The team of officers from the Department of Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) is currently providing assistance for the repatriation of Filipino workers who would like and need to return home. The presence of OUMWA in Kuwait is marching order by the Philippine President to utilize the funds of the Department of Foreign Affairs to help all Filipinos who wish to go home. The team supports the Philippine Embassy contingent.

The Times: Will you be meeting your counterparts or officials in Kuwait?

Atty. Arriola: The meeting with the officials form the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait is ongoing and we are very thankful that they travelled to Philippines to discuss further current issues on deployment ban and provisions requested by the Philippine government. Initial documents have been signed earlier but the Philippine President required more and looked into government to government contracts for OFWs. Among other provisions include 7 hours continuous rest per day, no leftover foods for house helpers, six days of work with one day off, standard working contract between employer and employee formulated by both government.  We hope to come to terms with Kuwait with a model contract, which other countries can apply and we are grateful that both countries are open to talks, although it might take a bit of time.

The Times: Why does the Philippine government insist on sending house helpers amidst thousands of documented abuses committed against them?

Atty. Arriola: We have a long standing good relationship with Kuwait and what occurred recently was a wake up call for both countries to work on the grounds. We thank Kuwait for their help but one abuse is but too many and we have to stand firm and as a sign of protest the ban was implemented. Unlike the previous government which simply lip serviced and did not attend to the OFWs needs. The Philippine government wanted an agreement that is clear and if anything is violated they will be held accountable. The President wants a government to government agreement. This is also in response to OFWs who still would like to stay in Kuwait and work but with safer working environment.

The Times: So after your visit, what can we expect to happen?

Atty. Arriola: The agreement as of now is on technical stage but the President think it’s not enough and we are waiting for Kuwait response, it’s all about the issue of accountability.  The Philippine Embassy has already started filing cases and let us see how the justice system works, with the total deployment ban both countries are suffering and as per President words, we are going towards a government to government agreement with a central agency to handle deployment. But again we trust in the leadership as the President is the architect of the government and we at DFA will always support.  As of now we can’t promise anything but the embassy will be here always to be the OFWs sanctuary and assist in the needs of our migrant workers. We hope the President comes to Kuwait in due time and it will be one great celebration.

The Times: Filipinos bound for Kuwait affected by the ban have asked for financial assistance and lifting of the ban for skilled workers, what has been the development so far?

Atty. Arriola: This concern is under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), we at DFA apologize to them but this move is in solidarity with abused Filipinos in Kuwait. It is a sacrifice they can do for the rest of Filipino migrant workers abroad. It is an ultimate sacrifice but this is all for now and we also have to look forward to other possible markets overseas. Let them approach DOLE and surely assistance is available as promised.

The Times: There have been loads of news from different news agencies which announced lifting of ban for Filipino workers and sources are quoted from the Secretary of Labor himself. What is real truth on the issue of lifting of ban?

Atty. Arriola: DFA has no information on this matter but at the end of the day the President will still make the final decision and we will all support. The last time the president said that unless justice is served with Demafelis case and agreement is made then the ban will stay. We are still waiting for the result of her case. DOLE and DFA were both present during the negotiations and the secretaries are the alter ego of the President yet no assurance has been made regarding the issue. There is no advice from the President and instructions whatsoever regarding the lifting of the ban.

The Times: Recent news in social media lambasted the embassy on Philippine diplomats beating an Egyptian lawyer within the embassy premises and in front of the envoy, has there been investigations on the matter?

Atty. Arriola:  The report has been submitted by the Philippine Ambassador to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and that impartial investigations are currently being done. Those people at fault will be fully sanctioned based on anything under the civil service law. But we assure the public that it is an issue which the secretary knows and a team is working on the case and decisions will be made based on policies of discipline and professionalism.

 

Ricky Laxa

Staff Writer

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