By Ellson Quismorio
A House leader says overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait who will choose to heed President Duterte’s call for them to come home could be redeployed to other foreign labor markets.
“Outside of Kuwait, we have far bigger labor markets in other parts of the Middle East and elsewhere that offer better protection for our workers,” Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said, alluding to the OFW situation in the oil-rich state that triggered Duterte’s appeal in the first place.
The congressman, who chairs the House committee on good government and public accountability, noted that the labor markets for Filipinos in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) “are each easily three times bigger than Kuwait’s.”
Aside from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Pimentel said Qatar, Oman and Bahrain also have labor markets for Filipinos.
“In any labor market, what is important is that the jobseekers must have the skills that they can sell to employers,” the ranking House official said.
In the case of domestic workers in Kuwait who decide to come home, Pimentel said they should be provided “new and improved competencies” by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Of the 252,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, 170,000 are domestic workers, while the rest are mostly employed by the petroleum sector.
Duterte yesterday made permanent a previously temporary deployment ban that covers all types of workers recruited for the first time for employment in Kuwait, without distinction as to skill, profession or type of work.
Exempted from the ban are workers vacationing in the Philippines and expected to return to the same employer to finish their contacts, as well as those returning to Kuwait on a new contract with the same employer.
Filipinos who opt to stay in Kuwait may continue to work there, as long as they are needed by their employers, and as long as their contracts are renewed, according to Pimentel.
The President ordered the deployment ban on in the aftermath of the discovery of Filipino domestic helper Joanna Demafelis’ corpse inside a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait.
Demafelis, who had lost contact with her relatives in the Philippines for over a year, bore multiple stab wounds.
A Kuwaiti court has since sentenced to death the Lebanese and Syrian couple behind the OFW’s murder.
Reports said there were at least 6,000 cases of abuse and maltreatment of OFWs recorded in Kuwait alone last year. Some 196 deaths of Filipinos have also been reported there.