Philippine defends OFW rescue in Kuwait

FOREIGN Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano insisted on Saturday the actions taken by Filipino diplomats in Kuwait were “a rightful exercise” of their duty under International Law to protect Filipinos working and residing abroad.

In a statement Saturday, Cayetano, currently in Singapore, said the uncoordinated rescue mission was consistent with the. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

“We remain convinced that the actions we took in Kuwait are a rightful exercise of our duty under international law to protect our nationals abroad. Our actions are consistent both with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” Cayetano stressed.

Tension between the Philippines and Kuwait increased further after the DFA uploaded a rescue video where diplomats, consisting of the Rapid Response Team, were seen helping Filipinos to flee from their allegedly abusive employers in Kuwait.

The videos, which angered the Kuwait government, showed a woman running from a home and jumping into a waiting vehicle while another depicted a person sprinting from what looked like a construction site and then speeding off in a black sport utility vehicle.

Kuwait had branded the rescues a violation of its sovereignty, adding fuel to a simmering diplomatic row between the two nations sparked by the murder of a Filipino maid.

In related developments:

• President Rodrigo Duterte, in Singapore for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting would announce the Philippines’ position on the Kuwait crisis upon his return to Davao City—expected before midnight Saturday—from a regional summit in Singapore, his spokesman said Friday.

Duterte has not made any statement on Kuwait since the Gulf state on April 25 expelled Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa. 

The ambassador was declared persona non grata due to the Philippine embassy’s allegedly illegal rescues of abused overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait. 

Duterte “will announce the Philippine position personally during his arrival statement” in Davao City this weekend, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press conference in Singapore on Friday.

Asked if Duterte will reveal it in his meeting with the Filipino community in Singapore on Saturday, April 28, Roque said, “He wants to announce it on Philippine soil.”

“It’s a very important announcement so it should be the President,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in another media briefing earlier on Friday.

• Migrante International on Saturday hit the Philippine government’s recent rescue of overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, saying it only worsened the situation of already distressed migrant workers in the Arab country.

Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando said Cayetano should apologize not only to the Kuwaiti government but also to OFWs in Kuwait.

Cayetano earlier issed a public and formal apology to Kuwait “for certain incidents that the Kuwaitis view as violation of their sovereignty.”

The controversial rescue video resulted in Kuwait’s decision to recall its envoy in Manila; expel Villa and hand arrest order to three involved diplomats who were now stuck inside the embassy there.

Cayetano, however, assured the 250,000 Filipinos working and fearing for their lives there that his office was currently engaging discussions with Kuwait to address recent concerns.

“In pursuing these discussions, we remain guided by the President’s policy that the protection of the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas is paramount,” he noted.

He added the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment have been carrying out this policy to ensure the welfare of the Filipinos.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment have been carrying out this policy by ensuring that we always come to the aid of Filipinos in distress anywhere in the world,” Cayetano said.

“The policy—and our resolve to pursue it—will not waver,” he assured.

Cayetano assured the Philippines remained committed with its Kuwaiti counterparts to achieve a shared goal of strengthening both bilateral relations.

“We are committed to find a way with our counterparts in Kuwait to achieve our shared goal of strengthening our bilateral relations based on what we hope would be a common desire to ensure the well-being of our kababayans there,” he said.

“If we reach agreement on this, the ties between oura two countries would become stronger than ever,” he added.

While doing that, Cayetano asked for a “diplomatic space” from the media and the public to be able to resolve the matter.

“In the meantime, we would like to request the kind understanding of the media and the public as we ask for diplomatic space while resolving these pending concerns with Kuwait,” he added.

Cayetano on Friday admitted that the signing of a deal between the two countries, where President Duterte would witness the supposed historic and groundbreaking development to protect Filipinos working there, would be put on hold.

Since Kuwait expelled Villa and ordered arrest of the three other diplomats, Duterte has been mum on the issue.

Bello admitted Duterte was “surprised” about Kuwait’s order against Villa asking him to leave the Gulf State and declared the latter persona non-grata.

Roque said despite non-response from the Kuwait counterpart to explain its decision, Duterte has made up his mind and will announce the Philippines’ position on Saturday evening.

“I have to say that the President, being a lawyer with 30 years of executive experience, certainly had a very different reaction to the controversy. It was a course of action that was not specifically recommended by anyone,” Roque said.

“He made up his mind, and I appreciate it. It shows really his experience in governance, and there’s wisdom, I guess, even in his number of years in leadership, as well as in his age. But he will announce it,” he said, adding this position was personally crafted by Duterte.

Topics: Alan Peter Cayetano , Rodrigo Duterte , Kuwait , Harry Roque , Vienna Convention on Consular Relations , Arman Hernando
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