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Philippine suspends household worker deployment to Kuwait

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Philippine suspends household worker deployment to Kuwait
Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople prepares for a press briefing after a welcoming ceremony held at the POEA Blas F. Ople Building on July 1, 2022.
Philstar.com / Kaycee Valmonte

MANILA, Philippines — A few weeks after the brutal killing of Filipina domestic helper Jullebee Ranara, the government has halted the deployment of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) to Kuwait.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said they are deferring the processing and deployment of first-time HSWs in Kuwait until “significant reforms” are put in place.

“The newbies, who have never worked before as kasambahays abroad, or those who have worked abroad as kasambahays but not Kuwait, need to wait first because the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) wants to ensure that there are better monitoring mechanism and faster response system in place before they go there,” Ople said in Filipino and English.

The DMW chief, who is now in Tokyo, Japan to assist President Marcos in his meeting with Japanese shipowners, said Filipinos aspiring to work abroad as HSWs need not worry since there are several other countries to choose from.

Ople cited Hong Kong as one of the possible alternatives and much nearer to home.

“We also have Singapore, where we have very good relations with our counterpart ministry,” she said.

She expressed optimism that significant changes can still be made in the existing bilateral labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait.

“Why not just impose a total deployment ban? Because there are actual OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who have already worked in Kuwait for several years who still want to go back to their old employers or seek new ones,” Ople said.

The Kuwaiti government, through diplomatic channels, also aired its willingness 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.

Abused HSW returns

With bruises and contusions on her face, another Filipina HSW returned home from Kuwait last Tuesday night.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Arnell Ignacio clarified that Jenelyn Fiel merely suffered an accident and not abuse, contrary to reports circulating on social media.

Ignacio said he fetched Fiel from the airport so that he could personally see her condition and ask what really happened.

Fiel did not ask for anything from the OWWA, but Ignacio gave assurance that the agency and the DMW are always ready to extend whatever assistance she might need.

A video of Fiel seeking help went viral on social media recently, but she told Ignacio that it was her friend who posted the video.

“She was embarrassed for that, that’s why she just made a clarification,” the OWWA chief said, as he noted that he asked Fiel to tell the truth if she suffered abuse at the hands of her Kuwaiti employer.

Ignacio added that he sees no reason for Fiel to lie about what happened because she is now home.

Fiel narrated to Ignacio that she slipped and her forehead hit the floor. Based on the doctor’s assessment, the hematoma under her eyes was because the accident did not cause external bleeding, according to the OWWA chief.

Ignacio advised netizens to stop speculating because Fiel had already admitted that she was not beaten by her employer.

Fiel is an inactive OWWA member, but Ignacio said the agency could still extend assistance when necessary. – Paolo Romero

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