Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa

KUWAIT: A proposal to ban Filipino domestic helpers working in Kuwait has not been approved by the Philippine government, confirmed Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa. Speaking with the reporters at the Philippine embassy in Sadiq area, Villa noted the ban is tied to the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on domestic helper concern and even if it gets approved, it would only be temporary.

“The House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs has called for the temporary suspension but it hasn’t approved by the congress as yet. Once it is approved they will instruct us here to implement the ban. We are the implementer-the embassy, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment (Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Oversea Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). To date, there is no finality as to the ban issue,” the envoy stated.

There is no guarantee that the ban will be approved. The ambassador noted that it was due in part to the continued maltreatment and abuse of Filipina domestic helpers. Currently, there are about 250 domestic helpers at the embassy shelter awaiting repatriation. Most of them are domestic helpers running way from their sponsors – some due to maltreatment, unpaid salaries, unfair working conditions, excessive working hours, no day off, or other forms of abuse or exploitation. Some also runaway rather than work as housemaids. Of the 240,000 total population of Filipinos in Kuwait 150,000 of them work as domestic helpers.

The timing of the proposed ban, however, suggests that Manila may also be concerned by plans in Kuwait for the establishment of a government-run recruitment agency that would dictate differing terms – and lower fees – for the recruitment of domestic helpers.

Several embassies of labor importing countries, including the Philippines and Sri Lanka, have opposed the new government-backed agency, arguing that the fees it proposes will be too low. Many recruiting firms in both Kuwait and labor exporting countries do a brisk business and may bring pressure to bear on governments to prevent the shift to a government-controlled recruiting process.

By Ben Garcia