KUWAIT is sending a team to Manila to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on labor policy, which will provide added protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd disclosed on Monday that the information was relayed to him in a formal letter sent by Kuwait Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh AM Althwaikh.
Bello said members of the Kuwait Ministry of Labor team were expected to arrive in the country in first week of March, carrying with them a copy of the proposed MOU and the Kuwait government’s comments.
Bello said the signing of the agreement would be done in Kuwait as requested by its ambassador to Manila.
“It will be signed by me as secretary of labor and by my counterpart from the Kuwait Ministry of Labor,” Bello added.
Once signed, the MOU will provide a valid reason for the Labor department to recommend to the President the lifting of the total deployment ban of OFWs to Kuwait.
Among the provisions of the proposed agreement is that passports of Filipino workers in Kuwait will not be confiscated by their employers.
Another provision will allow OFWs to use their cellphones to communicate with their families and the government.
The deployment ban was the government’s response to the alleged abuses committed by its citizens against Filipino workers, highlighted by the death of Joanna Demafelis, a domestic helper whose body was found inside a freezer a year after she was reported missing.
The ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait will remain, Malacañang said on Monday, even after the arrest of the principal suspects in the killing of Demafelis.
In a news briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s position that the deployment ban would stay until Demafelis gets justice.
“Well, we certainly appreciate the arrest of two of Joanna’s employers. However, in addition to the arrest, we would like to see them prosecuted and punished for the murder of Joanna,” Roque told reporters.
“As of now, the deployment ban stays because the latest statement on this made by the President was when he visited the wake of Joanna and he said that not only that they must be apprehended, they must be punished,” he added.
Roque made the statement after a group of skilled OFWs affected by the total deployment ban to Kuwait appealed to the government to exempt them from the ban and allow them to leave immediately so as not to lose their jobs.
Representatives Jesulito Manalo of Angkla party-list and Ana Go of Isabela agreed that the arrests of the killers did not merit lifting the ban.
“They should sign a bilateral agreement to protect [our]workers. This is not about asking a specific protection for Filipinos, but complying with the International Labor Organization guidelines. Protecting migrant workers is a universal law,” Manalo, chairman of the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said in a news conference.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI