By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
HONG KONG – The Kuwaiti government has agreed with the conditions President Duterte had set to improve the working and living conditions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the gulf state.
President Duterte revealed this during his meeting with roughly 2,000 members of the Filipino community here Thursday evening. He told the crowd that he is willing to go to Kuwait anytime to sign the agreement.
According to Duterte, the Kuwait government agreed to the conditions he wantedto include in the draft agreement that will be signed by both countries.
“I’m going to Kuwait maybe for the signing. And I have made so many demands before we sign the contract. And in fairness to the Kuwait government, pumayag sila (they agreed to them),” he said.
“I think that to give honor also to the Kuwaiti government, I will go there for the signing just to witness it,” he added.
Duterte reiterated that he wants Filipinos in Kuwait to be given a day off every week. He also said that the passports of OFWs should not be confiscated.
He also said that OFWs must be allowed to keep cellphones and use them whenever they want. Duterte said he also wants OFWs to use their cellphones to directly call him if they have complaints.
“My number is probably Manila, 638888. That’s the hotline. 8888 lang (Just 8888),”Duterte said.
Duterte also said the Kuwait government agreed to allow Filipinos to be able to cook their own food, except for pork and other food considered as haram or forbidden in Islam.
According to the President, he told Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to prepare, and leave the rest to God, in case the Kuwait government doesn’t agree to Duterte’s conditions.
“At sinabikosa Cabinet ng meeting, mahiraplangtayo (What I said during the Cabinet meeting was we are a poor country). There’s not enough for everybody. But if everything goes wrong here, we have to accept our countrymen and spend all available money paramakatulongsakanila (so we can help them),” he said.
“’Bahala na,’sabi ko. Magtiis tayo (‘Come what may,’ I said. Let’s just bear with it) and maybe there’s always God who thinks about equality in this planet. Tutulungan rin tayong Diyos (God will help us),” he added.
Meeting the said conditions for the welfare of OFWs was one of Duterte’s considerations before lifting the total deployment ban on new OFWs to Kuwait.
The ban on the deployment of new OFWs to the gulf state was imposed following the death of Joanna Demafelis, who was reportedly beaten to death by her Syrian and Lebanese employers. She was found dead, stuffed inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment unit, after more than a year of being presumed missing.
Duterte has fumed over the death of Demafelis and slammed the Kuwaiti government for being “oblivious” about the abuses and maltreatment OFWs are experiencing from their employers in their territory, saying the Philippines did not do Kuwait anything wrong.
The death of Demafelis prompted Duterte to implement a total deployment ban of new OFWs to Kuwait, and to order the DOLE to facilitate the repatriation of all OFWs who want to go home within 72 hours.
The President also revealed that the government is now performing an audit on countries where OFWs are reportedly experiencing “brutal treatment and human degradation” from their employers.