China, other Middle East destinations considered for overseas workers displaced from Kuwait

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THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) is considering the deployment to China of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) repatriated from Kuwait, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio L. Roque, Jr . said.

“The Labor secretary is finalizing the mechanism by which we can deploy workers to China as an alternative destination. So, that’s being worked out. Hopefully, there will be bilateral agreements soon,” Mr. Roque told reporters at a briefing Monday.

Also on Monday, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Sarah Lou Y. Arriola received the first batch of 377 workers who were repatriated on three commercial flights that left Kuwait on Sunday afternoon.

According to Ms. Arriola, “the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait expect that more than 10,000 Filipinos who have overstayed their visas will avail themselves of an amnesty program” that they arranged with the Kuwaiti government.

DoLE Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said that “both the DFA and the DoLE have made arrangements with Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific for the repatriation of those who already have travel documents and all those who want to return to the country.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday ordered Filipinos working in Kuwait to leave the country “within 72 hours” after receiving a report about the body of a missing Filipina domestic helper believed to have been frozen for more than a year.

Both the DFA and the DoLE, for their part, said they will “strictly carry out the President’s directive to prevent more workers from reaching the Gulf state.”

Mr. Roque has also announced that “those who opted for repatriation from Kuwait will be given financial assistance, including capital for livelihood ventures.”

“The missions all over the Middle East in particular have been instructed to find alternative employment for our kababayans who have opted for voluntary repatriation from Kuwait. We are particularly keen on finding alternative employment in countries such Oman and Bahrain, both of which are signatories to the relevant ILO Convention that protects migrant workers,” the spokesman added.

As to the need for justice, Mr. Roque said that the Philippine government “will hold Kuwait responsible under the concept of state responsibility.”

“Kuwait, under international law, has a legal obligation to provide legal redress for the victims, Filipino victims of these horrendous crimes in Kuwait. And of course, if Kuwait fails in this regard, then it will incur international responsibility for an internationally wrongful act.” — Arjay L. Balinbin