“The ban stays permanently. There will be no more recruitment, especially for domestic helpers. No more,” Duterte said upon his arrival in Davao City from Singapore where he attended the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders’ summit.
Last week, Kuwait ordered Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa to leave the Gulf state because of alleged “undiplomatic acts” of the Philippine embassy personnel who rescued abused Filipino workers. A video of the rescue operations was uploaded on the Internet, angering the Kuwaiti government.
Kuwait also recalled its envoy to Manila, Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh.
About 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, of whom more than 60 percent are domestic workers, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On Sunday, Duterte said the memorandum of understanding prepared by both countries to protect Overseas Filipino Workers will no longer be signed.
“I will withdraw all the Filipinos there. We will not ask any help from you. We will spend for their return,” he said.
“The Philippines and Kuwait have a shared history that both sides must learn to value. We have good relations with Kuwait. We helped Kuwait before. We can still help each other now,” Duterte said. “Current developments, however, test our commitment to work together. We must be undeterred in the work of helping our fellow human beings as we pursue our shared interests with due respect [for]each other’s sovereignty.”
“Once again, I would like to restate to everybody, especially to the Kuwaiti government, [that]there is no bitterness in our hearts for after all, at one time, we were also there to help you. And there are a lot of, thousands maybe of Filipinos, whose lives were lifted from poverty because of the work that you have. We realize that,” he added.
The President also took the blame for the crisis.
“I am the head of government. They are finding fault, [they said]the faults are committed by Cayetano. No. That is all me,” Duterte said.
“At the end of the day, I would like to thank the government of Kuwait. It was all my responsibility. I should be the one to be blamed and I’m ready to accept it.”
The President said Filipinos working in Kuwait may continue to do so but he appealed to them to “cherish and nurture patriotism.”
“You can stay there. For Filipino household service workers, if your Kuwaiti employers want you to leave, then please come home. Your government will do its best to help you return and resettle. I appeal to your sense of patriotism and to your love of country and family,” Duterte said.
“Do not worry. We will get them out, all of them. And to those who are staying behind, I will address you now. Come home and remember that it seems that they do not want us there. It is okay [to go home.]We benefited for the longest time,” he added.
Duterte expressed hope that Filipinos who will choose to stay in Kuwait will be treated humanely.
“For the household workers whose employers want them to stay, that is their choice, but choose the better option. All I ask is that the employers treat the Filipinos with the humanity they deserve. Please do not abuse Filipino workers,” he said.
Duterte said displaced workers will be given employment under the government’s Build, Build, Build program.
“[As] I said, I have to look for the jobs that you’re talking about. It does not come easy, but here in Luzon, because of the so many constructions going on for the Build, Build, Build, they may be employed and also here in Mindanao. You just wait for about a few months,” he said.
Local government units (LGUs) will also be tapped to provide employment opportunities.
“I will ask the LGUs to help. If we will help each other, [things will be better for the long haul.]I said, we might be suffering a little bit. We have to sacrifice. Everything will [straighten out], just see. We will adjust,” Duterte said.
“And the fact that we are improving in our growth, economy. We are hitting six [percent gross domestic product]. They expect to end up something like 6.8. That’s a huge number actually for economic growth,” he added.
The President said Filipinos can also find work in China since it is looking for around 100,000 English language teachers for the next five years. Filipino workers can also be sent to Japan where they can work as caregivers.
Some lawmakers backed Duterte’s move, with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd saying Filipinos should leave Kuwait because no official will represent the Philippines once Villa leaves.
“We should not allow our countrymen to be abused in the name of income,” Pimentel said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian agreed with the decision to repatriate all OFWs in Kuwait and demand a stronger policy for the protection of Filipinos.
Gatchalian said the government should stop sending Filipinos to countries that do not have strong protection for foreign workers or do not have existing bilateral agreement on labor rights.
Sen. Nancy Binay is also opposed to sending Filipino workers to other countries.
Duterte in February imposed a prohibition on workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in the Gulf state.
About 10 million Filipinos work abroad, seeking high-paying jobs they are unable to find at home, and their remittances are a major pillar of the Philippine economy.
Duterte lashed out at Kuwait in February, alleging Arab employers routinely rape Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps. WITH JEFF ANTIPORDA AND AFP / BY RALPH VILLANUEVA ON
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