MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday said he wanted all Filipino workers out of Kuwait and back home, noting that he could no longer take the abuses against them in the Gulf state.
Duterte bared this in a speech before the Filipino community in Singapore during the sidelines of the 32nd ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting.
He said the Philippines and Kuwait had “problems” to resolve but noted that he could no longer accept how Filipino workers, particularly household help, were abused in the country and would talk about the conflict once all Filipino workers are back home.
“Just do not hurt them,” he told the Kuwait government.
“I plead that they be given treatment deserving of a human being. Mamaya nalang tayo mag-usap pag nakuha ko na lahat (Let’s talk once after I get all of them back home),” Duterte said.
He, meanwhile, urged Filipino workers in Kuwait, including professionals, to come back home as an act of “patriotism.”
“Kayong mga andyan sa Kuwait (Those who are there in Kuwait), for those who are not household workers, I now appeal for your sense of patriotism. Come home. Tutal madami nang trabaho sa Pilipinas (There are many jobs in the Philippines),” Duterte said.
Funds from China
Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping “gave” the Philippine government funds which were already set aside for another project. However, he would instead use them to spend for Filipino workers in Kuwait who want to return.
“I will be frank with you, China is a very good friend. When I was there last week, may binigay si President Xi Jinping (Presdent Xi Jinping gave us something),” Duterte said.
“Sana gagamitin ko yun sa ibang project, actually I’ll tell you its about 4 point something, almost 5 billion. Yung pera na yan gagastuhin ko nalang para kunin ang lahat ng gustong umuwi (That money I will spend to get all Filipino workers who want to come home),” he added.
Duterte did not give further details about the funds given by the Chinese President but said that he was willing to spend it to the last centavo just to assure that Filipno workers are safe.
“I have that money which was intended for education. Gagastusin ko ‘yan to the last centravo. Tulong ng China ‘yan (I will spend it to the last centavo. That’s help from China),” Duterte said.
Duterte also acknowledged the long history of friendship between the two countries but did not know how long it will take to resolve.
“We are put to a test how long we can work this out…I do not want to destroy a good neighbor or friend because ilang years din sila tumulong sa’tin (because they have been helping us for many years),” Duterte said.
Conflict between the Philippines and Kuwait arose after the Kuwaiti government took insult for the action taken by staff of the Philippine embassy for conducting rescue operations early this week without coordinating with its government.
Duterte earlier imposed a total deployment ban on new workers to Kuwait after the murder of Joanna Demafelis, along with a series of reported abuse and maltreatment inflicted upon Filipino domestic workers.
The Philippines and Kuwait are supposed to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Gulf state after this year’s Ramadan in June.
Roque said that at present, he could only “surmise” the MOU’s fate.
“I do not know anymore what will happen to the MOU, I could only surmise,” Roque said.
“I do not know, everything is up in the air now with recent developments Kuwaiti ambassador (Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh) being recalled and [the] Philippine ambassador (Renato Villa) being declared persona non grata,” Roque added. PNA-northboundasia.com