Kuwait, Manila to sign labor agreement
KUWAIT: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted an invitation by HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah to visit Kuwait, and the state visit will take place “in the first or the second week of March”, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah announced yesterday. The two countries will also sign an agreement to regulate the affairs of Filipino workers in Kuwait, Jarallah added after a meeting with the National Assembly’s foreign relations panel to discuss the standoff between the Philippines and Kuwait over alleged mistreatment of workers.
“The Philippines president will visit the country after the Amir sent an invitation to the president. The visit will – God willing – take place in the first or second week of March,” Jarallah told reporters after the meeting. He said an agreement is currently under review by the two countries to regulate Filipino workers in the country, adding the agreement was proposed by the Philippine authorities. “We have been presented with the draft agreement which will be signed by Kuwait and the Philippines. Concerned authorities (in Kuwait) have reviewed the draft,” Jarallah said.
Accordingly, Jarallah said the two countries are on their way to calm the tense situation, “if we have not actually reached that target already through the correct and quiet handling of this problem”. Kuwait last week condemned what it called an escalation by the Philippines that threatened bilateral relations after the president and top officials lashed out at Kuwait for allegedly mistreating Filipino workers in the country.
Kuwait has categorically denied the allegations and stressed that the abuse cases were very limited and will be dealt with within the framework of the law. Jarallah said he discussed with the committee the consequences of the standoff and its causes and explained to them the efforts that had been exerted by the foreign ministry. He said that there were contacts between the two countries to prevent the escalation of the issue through the Philippines ambassador in Kuwait and the Kuwaiti ambassador in Manila. Jarallah said that as a result, the two nations agreed not to use the media to escalate the problem and that they should resort to diplomatic dialogue to resolve it.
After the body of a Filipino was discovered in a freezer in a Kuwait apartment, Duterte arranged free flights for workers wishing to leave – an evacuation that Kuwait said was an unnecessary escalation of a diplomatic rift. The Philippines suspended sending workers to Kuwait in January after reports that abuse by employers had driven several to suicide.
Meanwhile, an official delegation from the Philippine foreign ministry is due to arrive in Kuwait today to hold talks with Kuwaiti officials regarding the standoff, informed sources said. The delegation is expected to discuss the situation of the Filipino workers in general and the proposed labor agreement in particular, and pave the way for the official visit by Duterte to Kuwait.
By B Izzak