The signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the protection of Filipinos in Kuwait between the Philippines and the Gulf State may take place on May 11.
“Sa a-onse po yung araw na inaasahan natin na magkakaroon ng lagdaan ng memorandum of agreement (May 11 is the day we expect to have a signing of a memorandum of agreement),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait on Wednesday night.
Roque made the announcement after the Philippine delegation met with officials from the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry and Foreign Affairs Ministry to discuss the diplomatic spat between the two countries.
He was joined by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, former labor secretary Marianito Roque, Labor Attache Rustico dela Fuente, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuwait Mohd Noordin Lomondot.
Bello said it was agreed that the MOA shall contain a contract of employment template where the provisions “particularly stated” by President Rodrigo R. Duterte are enumerated.
These provisions include requiring workers’ passports to be deposited to the Philippine Embassy and not confiscated by employers; workers given one day off every week; workers given seven hours sleep a day; workers provided with decent meals and sleeping quarters; and workers provided with cellphones.
Asked if there will be a total lifting of the deployment ban to Kuwait once the MOA is signed, Bello said that it will be a “partial lifting.”
”Baka (Perhaps) partial lifting lang (only) to allow the deployment ng mga (of) skilled workers and professionals. Yun ang ire-recommend ko kay Presidente (That’s what I’ll recommend to the President),” Bello said.
“Kailangan tingnan muna natin ang magiging immediate effect ng lalagdaan nating [MOA] (We have to check what will be the immediate effect of the MOA will be),” he added.
Aside from the conditions laid out by Duterte, Kuwait also agreed to create a Special Unit within the police that the Philippine Embassy can liaison with regarding complaints of Filipino workers which will be available 24 hours.
“Sila po yung tatawagan ng Philippine Embassy kung merong mga reports ng mga distressed na mga kababayan natin (The Philippine Embassy will contact them if there are reports of distressed Filipino workers),” Roque said.
A Special Number that Filipino workers can call for assistance (also available 24 hours) will be accessible.
Moreover, Kuwait also promised to allow all remaining undocumented Filipinos (more or less 600) except for those with pending cases, to go home at their expense.
“Nabigla kami. Napasipa ako kay Atty. Harry Roque nung sinabi at their expense. That is a bonus na unexpected talaga (We were surprised. I nudged Atty. Harry Roque when they said they would send undocumented Filipinos home at their expense. That is a bonus that is really unexpected),” Bello said.
Roque said at least 150 OFWs will be joining the Philippine officials in returning to Manila on May 12.
The diplomatic spat between the Philippines and Kuwait started after the Kuwaiti government slammed the action taken by the staff of the Philippine embassy who conducted rescue operations of distressed Filipino workers in their country.
Duterte earlier imposed a total deployment ban on new workers to Kuwait after the murder of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis, along with a series of reported abuse and maltreatment of Filipino domestic workers.