By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (AA) – The Philippines and Kuwait are expected to sign a memorandum of agreement to protect overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told local media Wednesday.
Roque and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III were among the Philippine delegation that flew to Kuwait and met with officials from the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry Wednesday as they looked forward to the normalization of ties between the two nations.
“The signing of the MOA is expected on May 11,” said Roque.
"Kuwait, on its part, has expressed the value of Filipinos in Kuwait. A Memorandum of Agreement is expected to be signed and agreed upon after the meeting," he added.
The agreement includes the creation of a special police unit that will coordinate with the Philippine Embassy to address the complaints of Filipino workers as well as a hotline number they can call for assistance.
He also disclosed that among the key points of the deal are to provide Filipino workers in the Gulf state at least one day off each week, decent food and sleeping quarters, forbid the confiscation of mobile phones by employers and ensure that their passports are deposited at the Philippine Embassy instead of with their employers.
Roque also said the Kuwaiti government has agreed to release the four Filipino drivers hired by the Philippine Embassy who were detained after the controversial rescue mission of abused Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
He added that the Gulf state has agreed to allow more than 500 undocumented workers to go home at the Kuwaiti government’s expense while some 150 workers will join the Philippine delegation in returning to Manila on Friday.
Bello said he would recommend a partial lifting of the deployment ban in Kuwait to President Rodrigo Duterte.
The diplomatic row between the Philippines and Kuwait erupted over a string of deaths of Filipino workers in the Gulf state followed by the release of videos of the Philippine Embassy’s rescue missions of distressed Filipino workers which were viewed by the Kuwaiti government as a breach of their sovereignty.
The signing of the memorandum of agreement will benefit around 260,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait.