THE PHILIPPINE government is putting on hold all contract applications of first-time Filipino domestic workers bound for Kuwait until significant reforms are reached from bilateral talks.  

“Newcomers, who have never worked as domestic helpers abroad or those who have worked as domestic helpers but not in Kuwait, must wait first because the department seeks to ensure that there is better monitoring and a faster response system in place before they go,” Secretary Susan V. Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said in Filipino in a statement on Wednesday.  

The secretary said Filipinos seeking overseas employment as domestic workers have various other countries to choose from.  

Hong Kong remains a strong alternative and is much nearer to home, and we also have Singapore where we have very good relations with our counterpart ministry,she said.  

Ms. Ople said they will continue to pursue improvements in the Philippines labor agreement with Kuwait and there will be no total deployment ban.   

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,she said.  

We have also been informed through diplomatic channels of the willingness of the Kuwait government to engage in bilateral labor talks,she added. 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.”  

Meanwhile, the secretary has directed its welfare cluster to coordinate with other government agencies to provide assistance to victims of the major earthquake that recently hit Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.  

Also on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva sought for a review of the bilateral labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait, citing recent cases of OFW abuse.    

After these two unfortunate incidents, we need to carefully study if the policies are fair and being followed and clearly set the parameters on when to impose a ban and when to lift,” he said.  

The senator also filed Senate Resolution 456 urging the executive department to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace.  

Its ratification, he said, will give the country an opportunity to elevate the killings of OFWs to the ILO supervisory bodies. Alyssa Nicole O. Tan