Philippines welcome Kuwait's olive branch amid workers dispute

Philippines welcome Kuwait's olive branch amid workers dispute
2 min read
01 May, 2018
The Philippines have welcomed Kuwaiti efforts for calming of the crisis over treatment of migrant workers.
Hundreds of Filipina workers return home from Kuwait February 18, 2018
The Philippines welcomed on Tuesday an olive branch extended by Kuwait days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced a permanent ban on workers travelling to the Gulf state.    

The Philippines in February prohibited workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in her employers' freezer.

The resulting row deepened last week after Kuwaiti authorities ordered Manila's envoy to leave country after videos emerged that a Philippines' embassy staff, helped workers in Kuwait flee allegedly abusive employers.

Kuwait sought to calm the crisis, with the deputy Foreign Minister Nasser al-Subaih describing it as "largely a misunderstanding".

"This is largely a misunderstanding and exaggeration of some minor or one-off cases. We have taken a serious stance... but we do not believe in escalation and want to remain in direct communication to resolve the problem," Subaih added. 

The Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed the conciliatory message.  

"This gesture on the part of Kuwait, a country with which we have a shared history and strong people-to-people ties, will allow us to move forward," Cayetano said in a statement. 

"We affirm our friendship with the government of Kuwait and its people. The strength of that friendship will withstand this misunderstanding," he added. 

Cayetano apologised for the rescues last week, but Kuwait viewed them as undermining its sovereignty and expelled the Philippine envoy and recalled its ambassador from Manila.

Four Filipinos hired by the embassy were detained, and arrest warrants issued against three diplomatic personnel.

Subaih said those suspected of participating in the operation to help workers escape were not accredited diplomats and that they were now holed up in the Philippines' embassy in Manila.

The foreign ministry was "awaiting cooperation" for their handover to carry out an investigation.

Kuwait and the Philippines had been negotiating a labour deal that could have resulted in the lifting of the ban on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

But after the fresh escalation in tensions, Duterte said on Sunday that the temporary ban on Filipinos going to work in Kuwait was now permanent.

Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippines' foreign ministry. 

The money sent back by Filipino workers accounts for about 10 percent of the Philippines' economy.