About 10,000 Filipinos, including 8,000 domestic workers who have fled from their sponsors are living illegally in Kuwait, the Philippine ambassador to the country said.
In a report by Al-Rai, ambassador Renato Pedro Villa also said some 60 Filipinos are at the embassy’s labor center, some of whom are accused of illegitimate pregnancies.
He told the daily that about 265,000 Filipinos live in Kuwait most of whom are employed in beauty parlors and household work. He denied what has been circulated by social media that the government in the Philippines intends to stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait.
Although Filipino nurses have already been employed by private hospitals in Kuwait, Villa lamented on the its government’s reluctance to hire them as he vowed to continue his efforts with the government of Kuwait to ensure more Filipino nurses are hired by the Ministry of Health.
He also revealed about several agreements expected to be signed during the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Kuwait early next year for the benefit of both countries. The envoy also talked about a visit by a delegation from three parts of his country to check on the affairs of the community in Kuwait.
He disclosed a letter of waiver has been taken from the family of the deceased who was ‘killed’ by one of his countrymen. He hoped the Kuwaiti authorities will consider this waiver and commute the death penalty.
He also acknowledged there is not prisoners exchange agreement between the two countries, although such agreement is currently being worked on, and his country has submitted several proposals to the Kuwaiti authority.
On relations between Kuwait and the Philippines he said they are strong, diverse and distinct in many areas, not only because of the 265,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, but because of Kuwait’s outstanding investments in the Philippines as well.
They have developed significantly since its inception in 1978. The Philippine Embassy was established in Kuwait in 1980 and the Kuwaiti Embassy was inaugurated in Manila in 1995.
“The volume of trade exchange between our two countries has increased recently, as we import more than 70 percent of our oil needs from Kuwait. Our trade volume has reached about USD 1 billion, 40 million of which are our exports to Kuwait mainly bananas and air conditioners,” the envoy said.
About investments, he said there is a large private Kuwaiti investment in the Philippines including a project for a Kuwaiti company recently opened in the Clark industrial area on 188 hectares.
“This was a US base earlier,” he said, which has now been transformed into a free trade zone where a large modern medical city and two commercial complexes have been built. There are also some Kuwaiti investments in the banana plantations on a 1,500 hectares area of agricultural land. This is in addition to the construction of a luxury hotel in Palawan by a Kuwaiti investor.
Of tourism, he said, the number of Kuwaitis visiting the Philippines is not big. “We have to work to develop the tourism sector so that the Kuwaitis familiarize with the richness of the beautiful tourist areas, islands and beaches. Unfortunately, we do not have accurate statistics in their numbers.” However, he said, the embassy issued 200 visas to residents from Kuwait last year, and it takes up to 5 working days for residents of Kuwait to get a visa.
Of the direct flights between the two countries, he said the Kuwait Airways last year, launched seven weekly flights directly to Manila and the Philippine Airlines is also flying five direct flights per week to Kuwait.
He disclosed about 265,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait and most of them are hired by the household sector — about 165,000, which makes Kuwait different from the rest of the Gulf countries. There are more Filipino workers in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but the proportion of households does not exceed 20 percent. I do not know why, despite the availability of highly skilled labor in the Philippines.
He said a large delegation comprising personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Health and Labor visited Kuwait recently to follow up the situation of our Filipinos in Kuwait.
He said, the delegation members met with many Kuwaiti officials and presented drafts proposals to work out agreements between the two countries on domestic workers.
The delegation also thanked Kuwait for the new domestic labor law which will be implemented in September and includes many of the proposals made by the delegation to ensure the salary is transferred monthly and that the worker keeps his/her passport and obtain a weekly rest day.
The ambassador also defended the right Filipinos to hold their passports and their civil IDs, arguing that, “the fear of absconding — especially for the domestic workers — does not eliminate the need of someone to keep their own civil IDs and passports.”
“According to the statistics by the Ministry of Interior, there are about 10,000 absconding Filipinos, 8,000 of them domestic workers, who have left their employers due to high demand of their expertise and better income.” However, “many have so far been arrested for violating the residence laws.”