Manila, Philippines – The Philippines and Kuwait on Friday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on greater protection for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf nation.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah signed the bilateral agreement.
The signing was witnessed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, Palace spokesman Harry Roque, and other Philippine and Kuwaiti officials.
The bilateral pact between the two states aims to put an end to the unfair treatment against the Filipino workers in Kuwait.
During Wednesday’s press briefing in Kuwait, Roque said the MOA contained the provisions the President had personally enumerated, such as the assurance that OFWs would be allowed seven hours of sleep and a day off.
Under the MOA, Roque also said Kuwaiti employers were also mandated to give Filipino workers decent food, allow them to use cellphones, and not confiscate their passports.
Duterte ordered a total ban on deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf country, amid Kuwaiti employers’ reported maltreatment and abuse against OFWs.
The President gave the order after the body of Joanna Demafelis was discovered in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait. Her employers, a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife, have been convicted of her murder.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the agreement was a “milestone” in the government’s fight to secure the rights and uphold the welfare of over 280,000 Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
Sen. Joel Villanueva expressed hope that the landmark MOA would lead to a “better era” for OFWs.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, along with the senior state officials who helped make the final push, deserve credit for persevering and closing this deal despite the recent difficulties between our countries,” Gatchalian said.
“Moving forward, our government must do everything in its power to ensure that the OFW rights enshrined in the agreement are upheld by the Kuwaiti government,” he said.
Villanueva, chairman of the Committee on Labor, said, “We also hope that with this MOA, cases of abuses against our overseas workers will be prevented and resolved in a swift and just manner.”
Gatchalian said to operationalize the OFWs’ rights, the Philippine government should work with the proper Kuwaiti authorities to establish effective enforcement mechanisms, which would ensure compliance with the MOA and impose tough sanctions on offenders. Otherwise, the MOA will become a mere paper tiger.
“Learning from the tough lessons taught to us by this challenging ordeal, the DFA should also be proactive in negotiating similar deals with countries that have yet to establish adequate safeguards for the rights of OFWs stationed there,” he said.
“OFWs across the world need to know that their government is looking out for them,” the senator said.
Villanueva also lauded the efforts of the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments to finally have a MOA that would “ensure the protection and better labor conditions for our OFWs in Kuwait especially the household service workers.”