Senators follow up PHL’s MoU with Kuwait

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Grace Poe-BW
SENATOR Grace Poe-Llamanzares — BW FILE PHOTO

LAWMAKERS HAVE added their voice to the call to strengthen the Philippines’ relationship with Kuwait in connection with the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Senator Mary Grace Natividad S. Poe-Llamanzares said she “hopes the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Philippines and Kuwait for the greater protection of overseas Filipino workers will be signed.”

The senator issued that statement on Monday, April 2, when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the decision of a Kuwait court “to mete out the death sentence (on) the principal suspects in the murder of Filipina domestic worker Joanna D. Demafelis.”

“Swift and sure justice is what Joanna Demafelis deserves. But the search for justice should not stop in its tracks until all those responsible for the fate of Joanna are punished,” Ms. Poe added.

“We also hope that such understanding [MoU] be present in other countries with OFW population.”

For his part, Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III said in a statement that the earlier tensions caused by the incident between the Philippines and Kuwait will normalize as the two countries continue their longstanding diplomatic and economic relationship.

“Urgent now is the mending of ties. We see Kuwait as a partner. We benefit mutually from sending our OFWs to Kuwait, and it’s in the best interest of both countries to continue resolving matters relating to reported work abuses, repatriation, lack of documentation and other key issues affecting Filipino workers there,” he said.

Mr. Pimentel likewise stressed that the Philippine government’s focus should now be on the “protection of OFW rights and welfare.”

“(O)f course, [it should be] balanced with the respect for local laws and traditions. It’s sometimes a delicate balancing act that’s why we need constant engagement with the host state,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development chairman Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva said the government “should continue to ensure and see to it that no OFWs anywhere in the world will be under the ‘kafala’ (or sponsorship) system” that is applied in Middle East nations.

Sought for comment during a Palace briefing, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said the total ban on OFWs to Kuwait “still holds” despite the latest development on Ms. Demafelis’ case.

“But of course the agreement, a memorandum of understanding, is being formulated and hopefully the state parties will come to terms as to how our OFWs in Kuwait as well as in other Middle Eastern countries will be protected. So basically that will be a solution to this ban, this total ban about sending OFWs to Kuwait,” he added. — Arjay L. Balinbin