DMW suspends contracts of Kuwait-bound first-time OFW domestic workers

Manila, Philippines – The Philippine government has suspended the application of first-time migrant workers specifically for household services in Kuwait.

This according to Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan Ople will be effective until after significant reforms have been made resulting from upcoming bilateral talks with the said country.

“Yung mga baguhan, never before nagwork as kasambahays abroad or yung nagwork as kasambahays pero hindi sa Kuwait ay kailangan maghintay muna dahil nais tiyakin ng department na may mas maayos na monitoring at mas mabilis na response system in place bago sila tumungo doon,” she said.

Acting Secretary Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones also shared this position before the Senate committee on OFW affairs chaired by Senator Raffy Tulfo.

Ople, who is now in Tokyo to assist President Marcos in his meeting with Japanese shipowners, said that Filipinos wishing to work abroad as domestic workers have several countries to choose from and thus, should not worry about the new advisory coming from the DMW.

Hongkong is an alternative

“Hong Kong remains a strong alternative and is much nearer to home, and we also have Singapore where we have very good relations with our counterpart ministry,” she added.

The DMW chief remains optimistic that significant changes can still be made to the existing bilateral labor agreement that the Philippines has with Kuwait.

“Why not just impose a total deployment ban? Because there are actual OFWs who have already worked in Kuwait for several years who still want to go back to their old employers or seek new ones. We have also been informed through diplomatic channels of the willingness of the Kuwait government to engage in bilateral labor talks. We are preparing well in advance for these talks, bringing with us an accumulation of abuse done over the years, hence the need for significant changes,” Ople said.

She cited the good relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines after the bilateral talks in November 2022. “As a result of our talks with Saudi Arabia, a joint technical working group was created to thresh out various problems and concerns, and that group meets every week through virtual means.”

Earlier Tulfo has maintained his position calling for the deployment ban of OFWs in Kuwait in the aftermath of reports about Filipino domestic helper Myla Balbag who got paralyzed after she fell on the third floor of her abusive employer’s house in Hateen, Kuwait while trying to escape. Reports about the incident came just two weeks after another Pinay domestic helper Jullebee Ranara was found dead and burnt in a desert in Al-Jahra Governorate.

The lawmaker believes that the proposed ban to Kuwait could be used as leverage as the Philippine government meets with Kuwait for bilateral talks.

Meanwhile, Ople also directed the DMW welfare cluster led by Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac to work closely with other government agencies to deliver welfare assistance to quake victims in Turkiye, Syria and Lebanon.

“I have instructed the DMW to share information with the AFP rescue mission bound for Turkiye regarding the names of overseas workers deployed to the said country. We will also open a 24/7 hotline to respond to calls for assistance including queries from anxious families. The nearest Migrant Workers Office is in southern Lebanon, and a team from that office will be heading for Turkiye soon,” Ople said.

She added that the DMW and the DFA will work closely together to ensure that humanitarian assistance would be delivered to affected OFWs in quake-affected areas in the three countries.

Responding to Secretary Ople’s instructions, Undersecretaries Allones and Cacdac said the department is activating its Hotline 1348 as a handling center for families of OFWs in the affected areas seeking information about their loved ones.

The DMW reports that there are an estimated 193 Filipinos in the three affected provinces of Hatay (113), Adana (51), and Gaziantep (29).