Duterte says Kuwait work ban ‘permanent,’ describes situation as a ‘calamity’

Ismaeel Naar
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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has urged all Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to leave Kuwait, saying the temporary ban on Filipinos going to work in the Gulf state is now permanent.

His latest speech on Sunday comes amid worsening relations between the two countries over issues related domestic workers’ rights.


Duterte described the situation in Kuwait as a "calamity".

He said he would bring home Filipina maids who suffered abuse as he appealed to workers who wanted to stay in Kuwait.

"I would like to address to their patriotism: come home. No matter how poor we are, we will survive. The economy is doing good and we are short of our workers," he said.

In a speech that was aired live on social media on Saturday, Duterte said: “I can no longer [accept] what's happening. I will tell the Kuwaiti Government that apparently they bear grudges on us, I would plead for total ban of deployment. I no longer want to send Filipinos to Kuwait because apparently they do not like Filipinos,” Duterte said.

Duterte also confirmed that he was delaying negotiations with the Kuwaiti government to prioritize the exit of all Filipinos from the Gulf country. He was scheduled to visit Kuwait on Apr. 30 to finalize a bi-lateral deal that would see a lift of a total ban on Filipinos entering and working in the Gulf country.

Filipino Ambassador in Kuwait Renato PO Villa speaks during a press conference at the Philippines embassy in Kuwait City on April 21, 2018. (AFP)
Filipino Ambassador in Kuwait Renato PO Villa speaks during a press conference at the Philippines embassy in Kuwait City on April 21, 2018. (AFP)

Escalations between the two countries have thrown a scheduled visit on April 30 by President Rodrigo Duterte in doubt, especially after saying negotiations were making headway to resolve differences sparked by the murder of a Philippine maid, whose body was found stuffed in her employer’s freezer in Kuwait earlier this year.

Last week, relations escalated diplomatically when Kuwait formally designated the Filipino ambassador to Kuwait as persona-non-grata and gave him one week to leave the country after embassy officials released videos of them on “rescue missions” aiding Filipina housemaids in escaping local households which Kuwait viewed as a violation of their sovereignty.

Urging better working conditions

Duterte critics are saying that the Philippines president and his administration mishandled the ongoing situation and are expecting further fallout unless diplomatic steps are taken.

“The more responsible Philippine leaders could intervene and help solve the problem. I'm sure Kuwait and other Gulf states appreciate the role of OFWs in their countries, and yet I hope they improve their situation even further in order to combat abuses,” Tonyo Cruz, blogger and Manila Bulletin columnist, told Al Arabiya English.

While OFW advocacy groups are urging better working conditions of Filipino workers both in Kuwait and in the wider region to improve, they contend that Kuwait was right in taking actions against their embassy’s recent behavior.

“Our president has a strong political will and I admired him for defending my fellow Filipino workers… But it was the right of the Kuwaiti government to expel the Filipino ambassador as [the embassy’s actions] violated their country’s law,” Bong Concha, chairman of the Ang Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group, told Al Arabiya English.

“Consulate officials should always coordinate with the host country's authorities to avoid confrontation between the two governments. The incident that happened recently is just an isolated case and I believe that both side will work it out to ensure their relationship to return to normal,” he added.

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