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More OFWs seek help despite progress in Kuwait-PHL talks
by UNTV | Posted on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
REPATRIATED WORKERS: On March 12, another batch of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) from Kuwait arrived in the Philippines.
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reported a good progress in the discussion of bilateral agreement between the Kuwaiti and Philippine governments regarding overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) protection.
According to DFA, Kuwait has already approved of the minimum monthly salary of 120 Kuwaiti dinars to Filipino domestic helpers; rest hours of not less than eight hours of sleep in a day; right to keep passports and mobile phones in OFWs’ possession; and limiting work to one household.
But DFA clarified that these are not enough reasons for the Philippines to retract the total deployment ban of OFW to Kuwait.
Aside from not yet having a signed agreement for it, the Gulf state still needs to agree with other conditions that will protect Filipinos against exploitation and abuse.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also urged direct deposit of salary to the bank account of the Filipino workers and to create a mechanism where an OFW may directly file a complaint to the Kuwaiti authorities.
Meanwhile, another batch of overseas Filipino workers from Kuwait arrived in the Philippines on Monday.
Most of them had bad experiences working in the Gulf state including abuse from their employers.
Based on records of the foreign affairs department, the number of OFWs who were sent back to the Philippines since February of this year has now reached 3,200.
But according to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), OFWs keep coming to the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait in the hope of flying back home to the Philippines.
As of this time, the number of OFWs being sheltered in the Philippine Embassy and waiting to be sent home to the Philippines has reached to more than a thousand.
“Kumukuha po tayong dagdag na tirahan sa kanila, para po lahat ng mga magpupunta po sa POLO-OWWA ay atin pong ma-accommodate sa shelter,” said OWWA Deputy administrator for operations Atty. Brigido Dulay.
(We are getting additional shelters for those who will go to POLO-OWWA so we can accommodate them.) — Asher Cadapan Jr. | UNTV News & Rescue
MANILA, Philippines — After a two-day meeting last week, the labor officials of the Philippines and Kuwait have agreed on the final draft of the bilateral agreement or the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
Kuwait has also agreed on the provisions concerning the right of OFWs to keep their passports and on issues regarding their contract.
In a message, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said it is possible that within two weeks, Kuwait will be able to sign the MOU between the two countries.
However, Secretary Bello will still not recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the lifting of the total deployment ban in the said Gulf state even if the MOU is signed.
The secretary said he gave two conditions for the lifting of the ban, one of which is the deliverance of justice over the death of Joanna Demafelis, the OFW who was killed and stored in a freezer.
The lifting of the ban can be reconsidered for the skilled workers but not for household service workers.
Meanwhile, some Japanese businessmen offered jobs to the labor department for the thousands of OFW repatriates from Kuwait.
“I had a meeting with some Japanese businessmen. They are targeting our repatriated overseas worker from Kuwait and they are offering jobs for their in-flight catering services. They are offering a good salary of $800. Initially, they are targeting 1,000 for a start,” said the labor chief.
Starting in May, Bello said DOLE will start deploying OFWs to Japan once contracts of the first batch of repatriates to be recruited are approved. — Aiko Miguel | UNTV News & Rescue
POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia on Get It Straight with Daniel Razon
MANILA, Philippines —It is a big challenge for the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to have a bilateral agreement with big countries where a large number of Filipinos are working.
On the program Get It Straight with Daniel Razon, POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia said they are exerting extra efforts to get the approval of other countries for the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
This is to prevent the occurrence of same abuse Joana Demafelis had experienced in Kuwait.
But POEA admitted that it is not easy to convince other countries to sign an agreement.
The show’s host, Daniel Razon commented, “In other countries, we have bilateral agreements. It would seem that the bilateral agreement is necessary because they don’t have enough laws that will protect the overseas workers.”
Olalia agreed saying, “You are right. That is challenging for us. We want to let them know that they should look into their domestic laws.”
Some of the counties that the Philippines has an agreement with are Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Germany.
Meanwhile, the undersecretary said that more than 2,000 OFWs have already been repatriated from Kuwait.
The repatriation program is still ongoing since the amnesty went into effect.
The agency is prioritizing OFWs with health problems and had been staying in shelters for quite a long time.
The agency admitted that there are OFWs who still need to stay in Kuwait because their employer filed cases against them.
“Majority of our countrymen there are saying they did not do anything wrong. Still, their employers sued them. Employers would file cases against OFWs to prevent them from leaving… but we’re helping them [OFWs] and we give them legal representation, ” said Olalia.
Meanwhile, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has opened a 24/7 command center to help OFWs around the world.
The agency once again reminds Filipinos who are planning to work abroad to directly coordinate with them to avoid getting victimized by illegal recruiters. — Grace Casin | UNTV News & Rescue
FILE IMAGE: DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III attending to some OFWs’ concern
MANILA, Philippines — Eight members of the Kuwaiti delegation are here in the Philippines to negotiate with Filipino authorities regarding an agreement to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the said Arab nation.
The proposed pact is called “Agreement on Domestic Workers’ Recruitment, Employment, and Protection Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the State of Kuwait”.
It covers all OFW household service workers and skilled workers in Kuwait.
The provisions include:
prohibiting employers from confiscating passports of workers
allowing workers to keep their cellphones
requiring the permission of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)when transferring workers to another employer
“Pag-uusapan lahat ng probisyon (We will discuss all provisions) that will provide our OFW’s maximum and optimum protection while they are there,” said Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello.
Bello insisted that if Kuwait will not allow their request, the said agreement will not be approved, and the Philippine government will continue to enforce the total deployment ban.
“If we cannot be assured of the protection of our workers, the deployment ban might not be lifted,” said the labor secretary.
He added that President Rodrigo Duterte also seeks to create a similar agreement with other countries as well.
Since 2016, almost 200 OFW have died in the Middle East.
This is aside from the estimated 6,000 cases of abuse, sexual harassment, and rape recorded by the Philippine Embassy in 2017.
The Philippine government issued a deployment ban on Kuwait after the remains of OFW Joanna Demafelis was found in a freezer at an apartment in the said Muslim country.
Bello said that even if the agreement will be signed, the deployment ban will continue until the Demafelis case is resolved.
The labor chief also noted that they are also considering implementing the deployment ban should the abuse of OFWs continue.
The negotiations will begin Thursday and will end on Friday. In the last week of March, the draft guidelines of the agreement will be released. — Mon Jocson | UNTV News & Rescue
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