By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
After forging the memorandum of agreement (MOA) protecting overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, the Philippines should make sure that the Gulf state will uphold what was agreed in the deal.
Senators Joel Villanueva and Sherwin Gatchalian made the appeal after the Philippines and Kuwait signed the “Agreement on the Employment of Domestic Workers between the Philippines and Kuwait” yesterday.
“The MOA, which provides for the creation of a special unit that will receive complaints from our aggrieved OFWs, prohibits employers from confiscating workers’ passports, and entitles workers to one-day off every week, should not just be in paper as no less than the labor laws of Kuwait guarantees better labor conditions for our OFWs including the prohibition on confiscation of workers’ passports,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, in a statement.
Villanueva also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to be “proactive in engaging the Kuwaiti government and set up coordinative mechanism to ensure that our OFWs are given the necessary protection and welfare they deserve.”
Villanueva said he hopes that with the MOA, there will be “closer coordination and strict enforcement of Kuwaiti labor laws can prevent abuses against our OFWs.”
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs for his part, said the government should work with proper Kuwaiti authorities to ensure compliance with the MOA.
“Our government must do everything in its power to ensure that the OFW rights enshrined in the agreement are upheld by the Kuwaiti government,” he said.
“To operationalize these rights, the Philippine government should work with the proper Kuwaiti authorities to establish effective enforcement mechanisms which will ensure compliance with the MOA and impose tough sanctions on offenders. Otherwise, the MOA will become a mere paper tiger,” he added.
Gatchalian, while lauding the DFA, said the agency should learn from the diplomatic row with Kuwait and start similar negotiations with other countries to safeguard OFW rights.
“Learning from the tough lessons taught to us by this challenging ordeal, the DFA should also be proactive in negotiating similar deals with countries that have yet to establish adequate safeguards for the rights of OFWs stationed there. OFWs across the world need to know that their government is looking out for them,” he said.
Details of the agreement have yet to be released but Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said it included provisions President Duterte had demanded: as OFWs in Kuwait will get a day off and holiday off and/or pay; be able to cook their own meal, get at least seven hours of sleep; have their own cellphones, and their passports not confiscated.
Aside from the conditions set by the President, Roque, prior to the signing of the MOA, said the agreement also indicated that OFWs will be subject to the jurisdiction of Kuwait’s Labor Ministry, and hence will be covered by labor laws and ensure better labor conditions in the Arab country.
Roque said the contract for domestic workers will not only be applicable to OFWs but all nationalities.