THE Philippines and Kuwait labor panels have approved the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would provide strong guarantees on the safety and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly household service workers (HSWs).
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said on Monday that the agreement was reached Friday night after two days of deliberations which, he admitted, almost collapsed after the two panels failed to agree on two contentious issues — to allow Filipino workers to deposit their passports with the Philippine Embassy and give them direct access to their loved ones and with labor and foreign affairs officials.
Bello said the MOU was expected to be signed within the week but clarified that even after its signing, the total deployment ban would remain until the demand of the President for justice for Filipina household service worker Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, was served.
Labor Undersecretary Jacinto Paras, for his part, said that aside from the Demafelis issue, the President also wanted the Kuwait government to give its assurance in writing through a bilateral agreement that abuses and maltreatment of Filipino workers would stop.
The agreement, Paras added, must also state that Kuwaiti employers must immediately be penalized if found guilty of maltreatment through a process which is summary in nature. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL