By Genalyn D. Kabiling
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is prepared to be on friendly terms with business tycoon Lucio Tan if he would deploy airplanes to bring home Filipino workers from Kuwait.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lucio Tan.
The President reached out to Tan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Philippine Airlines (PAL), after ordering the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to facilitate the repatriation of Filipinos working in Kuwait amid concerns about abuse and exploitation.
“There is a total ban now of workers to Kuwait. And I have given (Labor Secretary Silvestre) Bello 72 hours to go there and pick up the Filipinos na gustong umuwi [who want to go home],” Duterte said in his remarks in Davao City last Friday.
“Now kung gusto ni Lucio Tan na sweety-sweety kami eh ‘di magpadala siya ng limang eroplano doon. Pakatapos libre doon pa ako magkain sa kanya bukas ng gabi [Now if Lucio Tans wants to be sweety-sweety with me, he should send five airplanes there. After giving the free ride, I’ll have dinner with him tomorrow night],” he added
The President had earlier offered to repatriate Filipino workers from Kuwait after the discovery of a Filipina worker dead in a freezer, the latest case of abuse endured in the Gulf State.
Duterte said he would ask flag carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to provide the transportation for the distressed workers.
Following the President’s appeal, the two airline companies have reportedly mounted special flights to Kuwait to repatriate Filipino workers.
Last year, the President warned Tan to settle his liabilities with the government in 10 days or he would shut down the PAL’s Manila hub, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2.
The airline eventually settled its P6-billion unpaid air navigational charges with the government.
Duterte took pride that it was only his administration that was able to compel the airline to pay its debts to the government.
“Six billion. Seven billion? Ilang Presidente dumaan dito? Kolekta? [Six billion, seven billion? How presidents did we have? Were they able to collect?],” he asked.
“Sinabi ko sa kanya, ’10 days. ‘Pag hindi, kunin ko ‘yang mga eroplano mo, ipagbenta ko diyan sa bakalan [I told him, ’10 days or else I will get your planes and sell them to metal scrap yards],” he said.