A Philippine delegation is scheduled to visit Kuwait this month to discuss the ban on Filipinos entering the Gulf state for the first time and the possible review of the two nations’ 2018 bilateral labor agreement.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Paul Cortes did not provide specific dates but said the delegation would leave Manila in the coming days.
“What we hope to achieve when we get there is to clarify the issues of why there was a visa suspension, what will it take to resolve these issues between the Philippines and Kuwait,” Cortes said during the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
He said the ban and suspension of entry visa issuance were only formally communicated to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday and Kuwait has yet to officially provide a reason behind its decision.
The ban, local press reported, stems from the country’s alleged non-compliance with the 2018 labor agreement concerning the operation of a temporary shelter for distressed Filipinos inside the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.
Cortes, however, said Manila did not violate the deal if this was indeed Kuwait’s reason because the establishment of shelters, now known as Migrant Workers Overseas Filipino Resource Centers (MWOFRC) inside the embassies, is mandated under Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
“We could not have agreed to a provision that will allow us not to establish a shelter para sa mga kababayan natin (for our countrymen) because that’s our law, and siyempre, kapag nag-agreement tayo with another country, lagi nating tinutuhog iyan with our domestic legislation (of course, whenever we have an agreement with another country, we always connect that with our domestic legislation),” he said.
Cortes said the operation of these shelters abroad is non-negotiable and would stay whatever the outcome of the upcoming talks may be.
“Iyong batas natin (our law) is clear. We have to have a shelter for our kababayans,” he said.
Cortes said the DFA would also explain the deployment ban for household service workers (HSWs), which he believes could have been a “source of confusion” for the Kuwaiti side.
The ban only covers the contracts of first-time HSWs bound for Kuwait and was imposed in February after the brutal death of Jullebee Ranawa, whose charred remains were found in a desert in Kuwait this year.
Cortes said the meeting is timely as it was already set even before the issue of the entry ban came up.
The upcoming high-level talks, he said, are part of the regular discussions between the Philippines and Kuwait concerning the more than 290,000 overseas Filipinos there.
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