THE KUWAITI Ambassador to Manila has said his Gulf nation’s decision to extend an amnesty program for overstaying Filipino workers reflected good relations between Kuwait and the Philippines, amid a row over alleged abuses of Filipino house help.
Kuwaiti envoy Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh said issues involving overseas Filipino workers (OFW) were temporary difficulties that could be resolved.
“Every problem between our two countries will be solved…We will work hard to take it to another stage of cooperation,” Althwaikh said in a brief interview during celebrations for Kuwait’s 57th National Day and 27th Liberation Day in Makati City on Wednesday.
The Kuwaiti government has extended for two months the amnesty program, which should have ended February 21.
The decision came less than a week after Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano formally conveyed a request for extension to Althwaikh.
The extension allows the Philippine embassy in Kuwait to accommodate more of the 10,800 Filipinos believed to have overstayed their visas or ran away from their employers. There are about 250,000 Filipinos working there.
“Our leader is a humanitarian leader. That (extension) reflects our good relations,” the Kuwaiti ambassador added.
Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian on Thursday urged the government to review the policies of other countries on the protection of migrant workers, and stop the deployment of Filipino workers on states that do not have such measures.
“We have to make sure that the laws and mechanism to protect our people are there. For me that is a non-negotiable item,” Gatchalian told reporters during the Kapihan sa Senado news forum.
The senator expressed his dismay upon learning during the hearing of the Senate labor committee on Wednesday that Kuwait was rated by the Department of Foreign Affairs as only partially compliant on labor protection.
“This means that Kuwait is trying to address the problems of our OFWs there, but they do not have specific laws for the protection of workers,” he said.
Sen. Nancy Binay said there were enough laws to protect OFWs but the government had been unable to implement them.
Binay cited the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait despite the absence of a bilateral agreement or treaty between the two countries.
She said Philippines’ own Migrant Workers’ Act states that the Philippines “shall deploy overseas Filipino workers only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected.”
“The sad part it that most of our laws are treated as mere suggestion and have not been implemented fully,” Binay pointed out.