The State of Kuwait and other Arab countries in the Middle East must protect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). In essence, this is the call that a Muslim Moro Cabinet official of President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued in the wake of a series of years of abuses heaped on OFWs, chief among them in countries belonging to the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC).
AGCC is comprised of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. They are also known as petro-dollar countries for their vast oil deposits and mountain of petro-dollars. These are not exactly latest figures. Saudi Arabia has around 1.2 million Filipino community; UAE, 618,000; Kuwait, 250,000; Qatar, 260,000; Bahrain, 60,000, and Oman, 30,000. For years, Saudi Arabia has been the top destination for OFWs.
Secretary Guiling “Gene” M. Mamondiong, director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) called out Kuwait and the other Arab countries on the treatment of OFWs. The Moro Cabinet official “appealed to nations, particularly the Middles East, to protect the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and treat them with respect and dignity.”
Mamondiong issued the call in support of the Duterte administration’s hardline stance on Kuwait after domestic help Joanna Daniela Demafelis was found dead inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait City. Police authorities in Kuwait said her body had been in the freezer for over a year as they launched a manhunt for Demafelis’s Lebanese and Syrian employers Nader Assaf and his wife.
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The apparent murder incensed Duterte, prompting him to ban the sending of household workers and even skilled workers to the GCC nation. TESDA’s director general also asked the Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Foreign Affairs (DFA) to impose stringent policies concerning the deployment of Filipinos to Arab states.
OFWs, Mamondiong said, should “undergo seminars about their job ad the culture and language of the country where they will work.” Meanwhile, he offered TESDA’s language training program covered by the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), which teaches OFWs how to speak with English, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin (Chinese0, Italian, Arabic, and Korean (Hangul).
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He said the training also covers OFWs’ education on the culture of the country where they are to be deployed. “The National Language Skills Institute of TESDA also serves as a training venue for Japanese Language Preparatory Training for nurses and caregivers under the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement,” Mamondiong said.
More languages are to be added in the training, the TESDA secretary said, such as German, Russian, French, Bahasa, Vietnamese, and Mandarin (Taiwan). On Monday (February 12) officially dropped the axe on deployment of Filipinos to Kuwait, not just domestic helpers but also nurses, engineers, doctors and other skilled workers.
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Question is: can the Philippines bear any consequences if the royal family of Kuwait led by Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah put up retaliatory response? A report on abcnews.go.com showed the displeasure of the Arab States’ officialdom.
“This escalation will not benefit the relationship between Kuwait and the Philippines,” said Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Khalid al Sabah, at the same time adding his country warmly welcomed workers from the Philippines. He said his country has “170,000 Filipino nationals living a decent life here.”
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Minister al Sabah also praised the OFWs for giving Kuwait the least number of problems compared to the other foreigners working in his country. On the part of the Philippine government, Renato Villa, the ambassador to Kuwait, placed OFWs in Kuwait at 250,000.