Philippines denies conducting 'covert' rescue missions as row with Kuwait deepens
Cayetano said that the operations were not illegal and were coordinated with local authorities except for life-or-death cases.
Philstar.com/Patricia Viray

Philippines denies conducting 'covert' rescue missions as row with Kuwait deepens

Audrey Morallo (Philstar.com) - April 26, 2018 - 8:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano stressed Thursday that the teams it sent to "rescue" distressed Filipino workers were augmentation groups meant to help in the repatriation of Filipinos and expressed “great displeasure” at the Gulf state’s decision to expel the Philippine ambassador there.

In the latest episode in the diplomatic row between the two countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that it has expressed “strong surprise and great displeasure” over the declaration of Ambassador Renato Villa as an unwanted individual and his expulsion from the Arab nation.

The Philippines also objects to the continued detention of four embassy personnel and the issuance of arrest warrants against three members of its diplomatic staff.

Manila’s response is the latest in the row between the two nations after the Philippines complained of inadequate protection for its workers in Kuwait.

Kuwait and the Philippines are negotiating a pact that would extend better protection to Filipinos, who currently number at around 260,000, after OFW Joanna Demafelis was found stuffed in a freezer a year after she was killed.

'Rescue operations not covert or illegal'

The Philippines issued an apology on Tuesday after Kuwait viewed as a violation of its laws and sovereignty the conduct of “rescue” operations by the Philippine mission to save some distressed Filipinos.

READ: Kuwait's expulsion of Philippine ambassador surprises Palace

Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano, in a press briefing in Singapore, clarified that these operations were not illegal and were coordinated with local authorities except for life-or-death cases.

“Most of the cases were coordinated except for some that were a matter of life or death. We still did not break Kuwaiti law by knocking. We did not go into the houses. We did not take the law in our hands,” Cayetano said.

The Foreign Affairs secretary said that there were no “covert” missions as the groups it sent to the Gulf state were meant to augment embassy personnel overwhelmed by the number of Filipinos who want to be sent back home.

“We sent additional teams to Kuwait to help those who are availing of the amnesty. We did not send them for any covert or rescue or for any secret mission,” he said.

Cayetano explained that the embassy intensified efforts to locate and rescue Filipinos complaining of abuse to maximize the number of individuals they could help during the amnesty period granted by Kuwait.

READ: OFW party-list rep seeks escalation of diplomatic row with Kuwait

He said that Kuwait’s latest action was “disturbing and inconsistent” with the assurances given by its ambassador to Manila who said that Villa was welcome to stay until the end of his term and that the Kuwaiti government liked him very much.

Kuwait is demanding that the Philippine mission give the names of the Filipinos who took part in the missions that took domestic workers from their employers’ homes.

President Rodrigo Duterte banned the deployment of new workers to the Arab nation unless Kuwait can assure the safety and wellbeing of Filipinos.

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