MANILA (Agencies): Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, chairperson of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the the Philippine bishops’ conference, has backed a move by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to ban the sending of Filipino migrant workers to Kuwait, UCAN reported on January 22.
Apart from stopping workers going to Kuwait, the bishop also called on the government investigate abuses committed in other countries
“We appeal that our government investigate and lodge diplomatic protests about deaths and sexual abuses,” he said, noting it is the duty of the government to protect its people, especially migrant workers who contribute to the country’s economy.
“They should be defended against abuses and unjust labor practices,” Bishop Santos said.
The Philippines suspended sending workers to Kuwait on January 19, according a Reuters report. It quoted labour secretary, Silvestre Belo, as saying that no more Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) would be sent “pending investigation of the causes of deaths of about six or seven of our OFWs.”
Duterte said he was aware of many cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women and wanted to raise it with Kuwait and “state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore.”
Reuters reported that Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled al-Jarallah, expressed surprise at the president’s statment, saying “We have begun immediate contacts with Filipino authorities to examine the extent of this statement and to try to refute the erroneous information that came in it.”
Al-Jarallah said there were more than 170,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, all protected by laws that shield them from abuse.
However, UCAN reported the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs as saying there are about 250,000 Filipinos working in the Gulf state, most as domestic helpers.