Kuwait, Philippines ink labor pact

newsimage“We can probably have a partial lifting of the ban with respect to skilled workers and professionals before Ramadan,” disclosed on Saturday Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III to the Arab Times. Bello made this announcement before he left for Manila on Saturday with the Philippine delegation following the signing on Friday of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on the Employment of Domestic Workers between the Philippines and Kuwait. Kuwait and the Philippines on Friday signed an agreement on employing household helpers. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al- Hamad Al-Sabah and the visiting Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed the accord. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled received the Filipino counterpart at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry and the two sides held talks on promoting bilateral cooperation in all fields. They reiterated the historical ties between Kuwait and the Philippines, expressing readiness to overcome the “exceptional circumstances” of bilateral relations over the past weeks. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled held a luncheon banquet for the Filipino Secretary and his accompanying delegation. The talks were attended by Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah and Assistant Foreign Minister for Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled’s Office Ambassador Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, and senior officials at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry, together with each country’s ambassador to the other. The Filipino delegation also included Bello, Special Presidential Envoy Abdullah Mamao and Presidential Advisor and Spokesman Harry Roque. The eight-page MoA signed by Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Khaled and Cayetano aims to provide better protection for Filipino Household Service Workers (HSWs) in Kuwait. Bello together with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and former Labor Secretary Marianito Roque flew back together with some 87 distressed OFWs at the POLO-OWWA shelters. All the tickets of the repatriates were shouldered by the Kuwait government. Currently, there are 482 wards at the shelter who are set to go home pending their exit clearances as earlier promised by the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials to their Philippine counterpart. Bello reiterated that the partial lifting of the deployment will only be on the newly hired skilled workers while the deployment ban on newly hired HSWs will stay in effect. “For the household service workers, we still have to see the immediate effect of the signed MoA. I will first recommend the partial lifting on the deployment ban on skilled workers and professionals and I will submit this recommendation to the President,” he stated. Among the provisions of the deal are the creation of a 24/7 hotline where Filipino workers may report abuses and a special police unit to respond to such complaints. Stated also in the MoA, the employer shall provide the domestic worker with sufficient food, clothing, medical insurance, treatment, shall open a bank account for salary, allow the domestic workers to have and use cellular phones and other means to communicate with their families and passport should not be in the possession of the employer, among others. “All’s well that ends well,” described Cayetano as to the positive outcome on the MoA signing before leaving for Bahrain on Friday in high spirit to meet with the Bahraini government officials and Filipino community there. “To God be all the glory. We have been praying for this, that we have make a stand, that we have a President who does not only say that you’re heroes but also treat you as one. With our talks here in Kuwait, it’s really different when you talk face-face and everything went well,” stated Cayetano. Cayetano admitted that Kuwait and the Philippines had a tough time amid the diplomatic row. However, both sides are all set to mend the strained ties and move forward. “It was a painful experience to go through this with our relationship with Kuwait but it’s well worth it because we have to tell the whole world that as long the Filipino is out there, the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the DoLE will be there for you. Our Kuwaiti counterparts not only know this but understand it. Certain events were blown up maybe in the Philippines and here including the use of social media so we’re doing all the investigation and inquiry on both sides.