DFA, lawmakers express dismay over lack of protection for OFWs in Kuwait

Maris Federez   •   January 2, 2020   •   218

(FILE) Filipino household workers who were repatriated from Kuwait arrive at Manila’s international airport, Philippines, 21 February 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), along with several lawmakers in the Senate, has condemned the killing of another domestic helper, Jeanelyn Villavende, in Kuwait.

The DFA has summoned the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Philippines to manifest the government’s outrage over the seeming lack of protection for domestic workers in the hands of their employers in the said country.

The department insists that there should be “complete transparency in the investigation of the case and to call for the swift prosecution of the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”

It can be recalled that the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments have come to an agreement in 2018 for the strengthening and enforcement of the protection measures for OFWs.

On his twitter post, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said, “This is the ONLY official line: “All I asked for is the life of the taker for the life taken. And I don’t care whose life that is. The life of a Filipino—maid or socialite—is the equal of the life of a queen.” As for the rest of it, that has nothing to do.”

Senator Christopher Bong Go, on the other hand, vowed to help attain justice for the slain OFW and facilitate the immediate repatriation of her remains.

Senator Go said President Rodrigo Duterte initially had plans to make a visit to Kuwait but with the sudden turn of events, this may no longer be realized.

Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chairman Joel Villanueva also expressed his dismay over the incident.

Villanueva questioned the implementation of the bilateral labor agreement that the government has entered into that should have been a venue that will give way for better protection measures against all kinds of abuse and put a stop on incidents where employers resort to killing their employees, particularly OFWs.

“We question the implementation of the Kuwaiti bilateral agreement signed last 2018 that was supposed to protect our workers in Kuwait. We all thought that when the government entered into the bilateral labor agreement, our workers there would have better protection against all forms of abuse, effectively stopping the senseless deaths of our overseas Filipino workers at the hands of their employers,” Villanueva said.

The contract stemmed from the killing of Joanna Demafelis by her employers in Kuwait.

Demafelis was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in February 2018. — (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

DFA consular office operations suspended on Feb. 25

Robie de Guzman   •   February 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday, February 21 announced that operations at all its consular offices will be suspended on Tuesday, February 25.

In an advisory, the DFA said the suspension of operations, including the one in Aseana Business Park, is in observance of the anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, which is declared as a special non-working holiday.   

Applicants with confirmed appointments who will be unable to avail of consular services due to the suspension of operations will be accommodated until March 25 during regular hours, except on Saturdays.

Regular operations and services will resume on Wednesday, February 26, according to the DFA.

Applicants with emergencies may email oca.concerns@dfa.gov.ph for their concerns, it added.

Locsin orders immediate repatriation of Filipinos on quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has ordered the immediate repatriation of Filipinos aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Locsin announced he has ordered the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan to repatriate Filipinos on the ship after its passengers who tested negative for novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were allowed to disembark after the 14-day quarantine period.

“I have ordered our Tokyo Embassy to immediately repatriate our people in the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohoma Japan. It’s our duty to take care of our Overseas Filipinos wherever they are. I want them home now!” he said.

As of Wednesday, February 19, 41 Filipino crew members of the ship were found positive for COVID-19. Like other people on the ship confirmed to be infected with the virus, the Filipinos were brought to hospitals in Japan to undergo treatment.

The DFA earlier said there are 531 Filipino crew members and seven passengers aboard the quarantined cruise ship. Around 400 of them have expressed their desire to be repatriated to the Philippines.

The department said they have been coordinating with Japanese authorities and the operator of the vessel to ensure that everything would be smooth once the repatriation process begins.

DFA: Filipino workers can now return to Hong Kong, Macau despite coronavirus travel ban

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos working in Macau and Hong Kong can now return to their jobs despite the travel ban being implemented on China and its territories due to the threat of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

In a Twitter post, DFA Undersecretary Brigido “Dodo” Dulay announced that Filipino migrants returning for work in Hong Kong and Macau have been exempted from the outbound travel ban.

However, Dulay said they will be subjected to “certain procedural formalities.”

“OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) returning for work in Hong Kong and Macau have been exempted from the outbound travel ban by the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) subject to certain procedural formalities,” he said.

Hundreds of Filipino workers bound for Hong Kong and Macau were left stranded in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte on February 2 imposed travel restrictions on China and its territories hit with the deadly virus.

Stranded migrant workers were offered P10,000 cash assistance, and provided with dormitories and food while they await the lifting of the travel ban.

Groups of OFWs have earlier appealed to the government to let them return to China and its territories in fear of losing their jobs.

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