Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning home from the Middle East (PHOTOVILLE International)
KUWAIT– The Philippine delegation to Kuwait confirmed that a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in the Gulf State will be signed on Friday, May 11.
Speaking in a press conference on Wednesday night, May 9, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said both governments finally have agreed on the provisions of the MOA on the welfare and protection of Filipino workers in Kuwait.
“Tatlo pong mga cabinet secretary o ministers dito sa Kuwait ang aming nakausap,” Roque said. “Dito naman po kay Ministry of Labor ang napag-usapan talaga ay iyong tungkol doon sa Memorandum of Agreement na pipirmahan na.”
(We spoke with three cabinet secretaries or ministers in Kuwait. We discussed the signing of Memorandum of Agreement with the Ministry of Labor.)
The provisions in the proposed MOA on OFW protection included the ones President Rodrigo Duterte expected to be in the agreement. First is the condition that passports of OFWs should be deposited with the Philippine Embassy; second, OFWs will be given one day off weekly with pay; third, OFWs will be allowed at least 7 hours of sleep every night; fourth, OFWs should be provided a proper and healthy meals.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said though the Kuwaiti government agreed, he admitted that the other party was adamant at first over the said provisions.
“Iyon ang naging mainit na debate, iyong passport dahil (The passport issue triggered a heated debate because) initially they agreed that the passport should be deposited with the Philippine Embassy. Pero ang sabi nila hindi na kailangang ilagay sa MOU iyan, basta we will agree. So our technical working group insisted na kailangan nandun sa MOU. Finally, after a heated argument nag-agree na sila,” Bello explained.
(The passport issue triggered a heated debate because initially they agreed that the passport should be deposited with the Philippine Embassy. But they said “There’s no need to include it in the MOU. We will just agree.” So our technical working group insisted on including it in the MOU. They finally agreed after a heated argument.)
The Kuwaiti government has created a special police unit that works 24/7 to respond to reports of distressed OFWs, according to Roque.
Meanwhile, Kuwait has released the four Filipino drivers who accompanied embassy officials in the controversial rescue mission last month. Roque assured that the four will not be deported and they are cleared of charges.
Alongside these developments, the Philippine officials also confirmed that the Kuwaiti government allowed the repatriation of the 600 distressed OFWs in the Gulf State. One hundred fifty of them will be going home together with the Philippine delegation.
“Maiiwan iyong 62 kasi may kaso pa. Pero yung walang kaso pauuwiin na nila at their expense. Nabigla nga kami, napasipa ako kay Sec. Roque nung sinabi na at their expense. So that is a bonus na unexpected talaga,” Bello said.
(The 62 OFWs with pending cases will remain while the rest will be sent home at their (Kuwait’s) expense. We were so surprised by the offer that I nudged Sec. Roque, when they said “at their expense.” It was a really unexpected bonus.)
Meanwhile, newly appointed special envoy to Kuwait Abdullah Mama-O is expected to arrive to Kuwait today, May 10, for the finalization of the agreement before the official signing tomorrow, May 11. – Mirasol Abogadil / Marje Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue