“I’ll make the recommendation. But I’m not ready to lift the ban for household service workers. I may consider lifting the ban for skilled workers,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said. Facebook/PCOO

No lifting yet of total Kuwait deployment ban – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III will not yet recommend to President Duterte the lifting of the total deployment ban to Kuwait, although there is now a final draft agreement for better protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)  in the Arab state.

Bello said he might consider lifting the prohibition only on skilled workers.

“I’ll make the recommendation. But I’m not ready to lift the ban for household service workers. I may consider lifting the ban for skilled workers,” he said.

When the total ban was imposed, Duterte gave two conditions before it could be lifted.

“The President said there should be an agreement to make sure that justice will be given to Demafelis. We still have to meet (the second condition),” he said, referring to Johanna Demafelis, the domestic helper in Kuwait whose body was found in a freezer.  

Bello could not ascertain the reckoning period of the justice being demanded by the President.

On Friday, delegations from the Philippines and Kuwaiti approved a draft agreement designed to protect OFWs in the Arab state. 

The accord is expected to be signed in two weeks, mostly likely in Kuwait.

According to Bello, the negotiations initially hit a deadlock after the Kuwaiti delegations opposed a proposal of the Philippines to stop employers from confiscating the OFWs’ passports.

The Kuwaiti group rejected the proposal that the employment contracts should be primarily in line with Philippine laws. 

Bello admitted that heated debates occurred during the negotiations, but the Philippines prevailed. 

He said the deployment ban was discussed during the meeting and the Kuwaiti representatives were “not happy about it.”

“They are not happy because first, it puts them in a bad light. And then they need our skilled workers.”

Bello said he wants to revisit similar agreements of the Philippines with other Arab nations.

“I want to see if the provisions in other agreements are really providing our workers adequate security and protection. I’m looking at this (Kuwaiti) agreement as a possible template for other agreements that we have with other countries,” he said.

Probe

Meanwhile, the labor advocate Blas F. Ople Policy Center urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to go after licensed recruitment agencies that continue to deploy unqualified and ill-prepared workers abroad. 

The center said a majority of job applicants are being dispatched as domestic workers in other countries, particularly the Middle East.

It cited the recent case of a Filipino domestic worker in Jeddah, who was sent home by her employer because of her inability to speak and understand English.

“The POEA should immediately summon and investigate the recruitment agency that deployed her because they are putting our workers in harm’s way,” the center noted. 

Reports said the worker was sent home after her Arab employer found out that she could not speak English. She left for Saudi Arabia in January.

Center chief Susan Ople said the failure of licensed recruitment agencies to screen and deploy only qualified job applicants has contributed to the rise in welfare cases involving Filipino domestic workers.

“In this particular case, the worker said she relied on an ‘agent’ who brought her to a licensed recruitment agency. It was the agent who filled out the forms for her and put together all the necessary documents,” Ople said.

She said this was how Demafelis was recruited for Kuwait.   

“We urge the POEA to look into the prevalent use of sub-agents that work for recruitment agencies on a commission basis,” Ople said as she stressed the need for the agencies to adhere to ethical recruitment policies.

She said the quality of pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS) especially for first-time OFWs should be enhanced. 

“The PDOS seminars can be an effective platform to gauge the preparedness of a first-time OFW,” Ople said.

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