THE Philippines is hoping to forge a final labor agreement with Kuwait to provide strong guarantees on the safety and welfare of Filipino domestics working there when talks between the two sides resume in Manila this week.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano revealed that an eight-member Kuwaiti delegation will be in Manila from March 15 to 16 to resume negotiations.
“We are looking forward to the conclusion of this bilateral agreement that we hope will be a model document in terms of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure the safety and well-being of our household service workers in Kuwait,” Cayetano said.
This came after Cayetano and Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III met at the Manila Hotel with foreign affairs and labor officials involved in the negotiations.
Cayetano said the Philippines should go beyond the usual approach in the negotiations with Kuwait, noting that bilateral labor agreements Manila had previously entered into with other countries look good on paper but could not be effectively implemented.
“President Duterte wants this agreement to be different from the other agreements we signed with other countries by making sure that whatever is written there will translate into real, actionable measures that will protect our kababayans from exploitation and abuse,” he added.
Cayetano admitted that the Philippines was earlier able to secure the commitment of Kuwait on several matters, including the minimum monthly salary of KD120.00 (about P20,800); rest hours of at least eight hours per day; possession of their passports and mobile phones; and limiting their work to only one household.
During the Manila Hotel meeting, Cayetano reiterated to the members of the Philippine negotiating panel the need to include more practical measures to make the proposed agreement more implementable.
Among the measures Cayetano earlier said he would want to see in the agreement would be payment of salaries direct to the bank account of Filipino domestic workers whenever feasible and a mechanism that would allow them to file their complaints directly with Kuwaiti authorities.
Cayetano said these measures should be in place before the government lifts the deployment ban that the President declared early this year in the wake of the reported widespread abuses of Filipino domestic workers. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said the Kuwaiti delegation that will participate in the negotiations would be led by Ambassador Ghanim Saqer Al-Ghanim, Assistant Minister for Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The other members of the Kuwaiti panel are from the Residence Affairs Department of the Ministry of Interior and the Public Authority for Manpower of the Ministry of Labor.