Reacting to lawmakers’ call for a total deployment ban to Kuwait, Mr. Marcos expressed opposition to the idea, saying he does not want to “burn any bridges” with the Arab nation.
“Well, will we impose a ban? Me, I’m never very comfortable to impose a ban because when you do that, you are saying that it will forever be implemented.”
The President said it was improper to “overreact” to Kuwait’s recent move to suspend the issuance of new entry visas for Filipinos. For now, the Philippines will respect Kuwait’s decision, Mr. Marcos said.
The President added that he preferred to settle the issue through diplomatic negotiations.
“It’s their country. Those are their rules. So, we will just leave that issue open,” he said while remaining bullish that Kuwait might reconsider accepting OFWs and lift its deployment ban “in a little while.”
“Hopefully we will continue to negotiate with them, we will continue to consult with them and we are hoping that down the road the situation will change and we will be able to send our workers there, especially those who were unable to go there,” Mr. Marcos said.
Kuwait imposed an entry ban and suspended the visa issuance to all Filipinos coming to the Gulf state in May, or 10 months after the Philippine government halted the deployment of first-time household service workers there.
Kuwait did not formally disclose the reason behind its decision, but the local media reported that it stemmed from the Philippines’ alleged non-compliance with the 2018 labor agreement concerning the operation of a temporary shelter for distressed Filipinos inside the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.
“There are about 800 who were supposed to go to Kuwait but were unable to go because of the new ban,” Mr. Marcos said.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said the Philippine government is studying the possible lifting of the deployment ban in Kuwait.
Last February, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) banned the deployment of first-time domestic workers to Kuwait following the death of overseas Filipino worker Julleebee Ranara and other cases of maltreatment of OFWs.
The DFA and the DMW said the Philippines will only lift the deployment ban if Kuwait can guarantee the protection of workers’ there, including allowing shelters run by the Philippine government for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
In another interview, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Paul Raymund Cortes said Manila respects the Gulf state’s laws and regulations and that the DFA would reach out to Kuwait to convene another meeting over the issue.
“Kuwait is a sovereign country, they have their own laws, they have their own regulations, we respect them, and we also want to make sure that when we’re in another country, we abide by their lines and not cross it,” he said.
“Regrettably, there were actions that were construed as violations, but we will continue working with the Kuwaitis on what we consider when it comes to taking care of the well-being of our Filipinos are within the bounds of their laws,” he added.
Cortes said Manila is grateful that Kuwait continues to welcome the over 200,000 Filipinos living and working there.
“We will continue that dialogue so hopefully in the future, magkaroon ng (there would be) better understanding on what constitutes as assisting our nationals within the bounds of their law,” he said.
Kuwait has suspended all new visas for Philippine nationals indefinitely, the interior ministry confirmed Friday, as the row between the oil-rich Gulf state and Manila over worker protections and employer rights escalated.
This developed as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. rejected imposing a total deployment ban of Filipino workers to the Middle Eastern state, saying the government will continue to negotiate with Kuwait to improve the current stalemate.
The Kuwaiti interior ministry earlier said the Philippines had violated a bilateral labor agreement they signed in 2018 following a previous row over worker protections in the wake of deaths of several Filipino domestic workers.
Listed violations include housing workers in shelters, searching for runaways without involving state institutions, communicating with Kuwaiti citizens without permission from authorities, and pressuring Kuwaiti employers to add clauses to employment contracts.
Neither the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait nor Malacanan Palace had a comment as of press time.
Earlier, Mr. Marcos told the media after gracing the 125th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy: “I’m never very comfortable with banning like that, because it’s like banning is saying that it’s forever, it’s not possible anymore.”
“Sometimes, the ban is an overreaction. As long as we’re just banned, it’s not right,” he added.
The President said the administration will pursue negotiations with the Kuwaiti government, which suspended issuing work visas to Filipinos.
“The problem we have is that we are talking to the people of Kuwait, and they don’t want to issue new visas. We don’t get along because they say we are violating their rules, but we don’t see anything, so that’s the situation,” he said.
“But you know, I don’t want to burn any bridges… We have to react to the situation as it is, and I think the proper reaction is to take the decision of the Kuwaiti government to no longer issue new visas,” the President added.
State-run Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on Thursday said the Ministry of Interior has reaffirmed the suspension of issuance of all visas to Philippine passport holders after Manila “rejected” Kuwait’s request for it to recognize the alleged violations of the Philippine Embassy there.
Citing the Kuwait Public Authority of Manpower, KUNA said one of Manila’s “violations” was lodging Filipinos in “shelters and camps” run by the embassy.
Following this development, the Kuwait Ministry of Interior said it will “outsource the skills and expertise needed for its labor market through contracts with other countries.”