THE Philippine Labor department will cut the deployment of workers to Kuwait after the Middle Eastern state started requiring medical clearance from recruits amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 3,000 people, mostly in China.
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said at a briefing on Wednesday the Kuwaiti policy was “a practical order” but was an added burden and Filipino workers might as well go elsewhere.
“They should not require our overseas Filipino workers to get medical certificates that are paid,” Mr. Bello said.
“That’s why they should settle for medical certificates issued by our Department of Health (DoH) or medical centers certified by DoH,” he added.
Mr. Bello said “scaling down” the deployment means the processing of overseas employment certificates would take longer.
This will cover skilled, semi-skilled, professional workers and housemaids.
The deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait will increase again once the medical clearance requirement is lifted, Mr. Bello said.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido J. Dulay, Jr. called the Kuwaiti restriction “very unfortunate and perplexing” for Filipino workers.
He noted that the Philippines had reported only three confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus strain — one died and two have been discharged after recovering — compared with Kuwait’s 56 cases.
Kuwait will require travelers from the Philippines and nine other countries to undergo medical examinations before entering to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The certificates must be approved by the Kuwaiti Embassy in these countries, according to a March 3 circular issued by the state’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Also covered by the circular are India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Georgia, and Lebanon.
Passengers without a certificate will be barred from entering Kuwait and “deported on the same carrier airline, without any financial costs incurred by the State of Kuwait.” Airlines found violating the circular will also be fined.
Kuwaiti citizens are exempted from the examination.
Mr. Bello last month lifted the deployment ban on Kuwait after the two governments reached an agreement on better working conditions for Filipino workers.
The Labor chief said the ban would only be lifted once Filipino housemaid Jeanelyn Villavande gets justice.
Among the conditions met by the Kuwaiti government was the filing of charges against Jeanelyn Villavende’s employers.
Mr. Bello first imposed a total deployment ban after the Philippine government received a “dishonest” postmortem report of Ms. Villavende’s autopsy from Kuwait authorities.
The National Bureau of Investigation earlier said an autopsy showed the Filipina had been battered and sexually abused, something that was left out in Kuwait’s initial report.
Mr. Bello later lifted the deployment ban partially, only prohibiting housemaids from working in Kuwait.
In 2018, the Philippine government barred Filipinos from working in Kuwait after news of the murder of domestic helper Joanna Demafelis broke. The ban lasted four months. — Charmaine A. Tadalan