Last Sunday (June 3), Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his apologies to Kuwait for his harsh statements over a diplomatic conflict stemming from the poor treatment of Filipino workers in the Gulf State which have seemingly reached an end last month.
The Filipino Head of State had blamed Kuwait along with other Middle Eastern nations of treating Filipino workers as slaves and ignoring their rights and protection after a number of deaths related to abuse have been reported, including that of Joana Demafelis, the maid whose corpse has been recovered from a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait early this year.
Duterte Apologises for Lashing out at Kuwait Over Diplomatic Conflict
In one of Duterte’s speeches prior the enactment of the labour ban in Kuwait in late February, he said, “I implore you, I am making a plea to all Arabs, the Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere. Do not give us back a battered worker or a mutilated corpse.” The Filipino head also continued to describe Arab employers to be raping their Filipino staff as part of their routine, and making them work 21 hours in a day and feeding them with scraps and leftovers, which cannot be even considered a proper meal.
However, during a meeting with the press and Filipino workers in South Korea last June 3, the Philippine President offered a statement regarding the diplomatic issues his administration is dealing with at the moment using an entirely different tone.
In a statement addressed to the Kuwaiti government, the Philippine President had been quoted saying: “For the first time I would say that I was harsh in my language – maybe because that was a result of an emotional outburst. But I’d like to apologise now. I’m sorry for the language that I was using but I’m very satisfied with… how you responded to the problems of my country.”
Tensions seemed to have mellowed following the enactment of the labour ban in late February, as both parties have agreed to work on a labour deal which will offer greater protection to Filipino workers in the Gulf State.
But in an unexpected turn of events, things just seem to turn for the worse after a scandalous rescue operation led by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait had been discovered igniting tensions once again between the two countries.
The resolution had Kuwaiti officials call for the expulsion of the Philippine Ambassador in Kuwait and the detainment of the Embassy staff accused to be involved in the ‘rescue’ operation. Interestingly, the Philippine President responded with a declaration of the labour ban on Kuwait to become permanent.
Despite all this, communication between the two parties had remained intact as further discussion of a labour agreement which includes the availability of a system which offers 24/7 assistance to workers in distress, a fixed rest day in every work week, at least seven (7) hours of rest at night, and the workers’ right to keep their phone and travel documents (passport) had been officially signed last month.
Eventually, the labour ban had also been lifted during the week of May 13, starting with skilled and semi-skilled labourers, and followed by domestic workers a few days later.
As his final say in the matter regarding Kuwait, President Duterte looks forward to visiting Kuwait as an expression of gratitude for the deal that they had set for the OFWs in the Gulf State.
President Duterte wishes to personalky extend his thanks to the Kuwaiti government for understanding their situation deeply and maintaining faith in the Philippine government as seen in the granting of the Philippine head’s demands for the betterment of the working conditions of the Filipinos in the Gulf State.
At present, there are over 250,000 OFWs employed in Kuwait, with the majority of them being the breadwinner of their families back home.