Kuwait's expulsion of Philippine ambassador surprises Palace

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Kuwait's expulsion of Philippine ambassador surprises Palace
In this April 16, 2009 file photo, the Kuwait city skyline is seen through the haze of a sand storm in Shuwaikh, Kuwait City. Kuwait on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, gave a one-week deadline for the Philippines ambassador to leave the small, oil-rich Gulf Arab nation over a growing diplomatic dispute regarding the abuse of Filipina housemaids and workers in the country.
AP Photo, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines was surprised by the Kuwait's decision to expel Manila’s envoy in the Gulf state after embassy staff mounted “rescue” operations of distressed Filipino domestic workers there, the Palace said.

The expulsion of Renato Villa, the Philippine ambassador in Kuwait, is the latest in a series of diplomatic episodes between the two countries following reports on the rising cases of abuse of Filipinos, many of whom work as domestc helpers, by their Kuwaiti employers. He was also declared persona non grata.

President Rodrigo Duterte had criticized the Gulf state for its failure to provide adequate protection to the more than 260,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait especially after the discovery of a Filipina stuffed in a freezer a year after she was killed.

The two countries have since started negotiating a pact that would give Filipino domestic workers better protection in the hopes of convincing the Philippines to lift its ban on the deployment of its workers in the Arab state.

The Philippines apologized on Tuesday for its operations to “rescue” some domestic workers from their employers’ homes amid reports of maltreatment. Kuwait viewed these operations as an encroachment on its sovereignty.

Duterte and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have held talks with Kuwait’s ambassador to Manila, with the Foreign Affairs secretary saying that the issue was almost ironed out.

It seemed however that Cayetano spoke too soon as Kuwait announced its decision.

“We are concerned because we thought that we had already fixed the issue because it was the president himself who held talks with the Kuwait ambassador,” Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, said in an interview with government-run radio.

“This episode is really surprising,” he added.

Roque however could not say what moves Manila will make next since Cayetano will be leading the diplomatic effort.

The president’s spokesman said that the Philippines understands Kuwait’s reaction because it was really hurt by the actions of embassy staff in the country.

He stressed, however, that Duterte’s primary consideration would still be the welfare and safety of Filipino workers in Kuwait.

Roque said that he believes that this incident would not affect the signing of the agreement that would grant Filipino workers more protection although there was no date yet when the president would go to the Gulf state for this event.

DFA: Kuwait's actions 'disturbing, inconsistent'

In a statement early Thursday, the Philippine Foreign Affairs said that it Kuwait’s actions were “disturbing” and “inconsistent” with the assurance given by its ambassador in Manila to Cayetano Tuesday.

“In discussions at every level with Kuwait, the Philippines has always emphasized that the wellbeing of Filipino nationals wherever they may be will always be of paramount importance,” the Foreign Affairs department said.

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