US may mediate PH-Kuwait dispute

US AMBASSADOR to the Philippines Sung Kim said Washington would be open to helping the Philippines settle its diplomatic row with Kuwait, but emphasized that no such proposal has been made.

“We’re always willing to be helpful to resolve delicate, difficult situation between friends and partners but I don’t want to assume speculations, [or] hypotheticals because no one has approached us about it,” Kim said in a forum Friday.

“If we can be helpful, I’m sure my colleagues in Washington would consider any such request. So we will see,” the envoy added.

In a TV interview with CNN, former ambassador Jun Lozada suggested that the Philippines tap the United States as a third party mediator to bring an end to the diplomatic crisis with Kuwait.

A row between the two countries broke out after the Department of Foreign Affairs uploaded a video of Philippine Embassy staff rescuing distressed Filipino workers in Kuwait, a move that the Kuwaiti government saw as a violation of its sovereignty.

It has expelled Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa, arrested four embassy staff involved in the rescues, and issued warrants of arrest for three diplomats who are holed up in the embassy.

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

Anger at the unauthorized operations added fuel to a simmering diplomatic row between the two nations sparked by the murder of a Filipino maid.

Kim said he expects the two countries will be able to resolve their diplomatic row.

“My sense is that the two countries are working very hard to resolve the difficult situation,” Kim said.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, under fire for condoning the uploading of the videos, said talks between the two sides were “bearing fruit” and announced the repatriation of about 800 Filipino workers staying in shelters in Kuwait.

“Our communications are bearing fruit. The hard work of our people sa embassy are bearing fruit,” he said, without providing further details. 

Villa returned to the Philippines Wednesday after he was expelled.

Both Villa and Cayetano have apologized to Kuwait, but the Foreign secretary continues to defend the rescue operations and the uploading of the videos.

Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

“We are gravely concerned that recent actions taken by the administration, particularly the deliberate release in both media and social media of videos of ‘rescue missions’ undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs personnel in the Kuwait, have created a diplomatic challenge that could further jeopardize our workers in that country,” she said.

She said over 260,000 overseas Filipino workers stand to lose their jobs in Kuwait, and the capacity of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to protect those who remain may be compromised as they deal with the serious strain in our diplomatic relations with the Kuwaiti government as a result of the incident.

“Decisive steps must be taken at the soonest time to rectify this situation, and prevent further harm from being inflicted on our OFWs. These must start with an honest and candid acknowledgment of the crisis, a willingness to accept accountability and a conviction to do what is right,” she added.

Senator JV Ejercito, meanwhile, pushed for the immediate passage of his two separate but related bills to help distressed Filipino workers abroad.

Ejercito made the call following President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s announcement banning the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. With Rio N. Araja and Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: Alan Peter Cayetano , Sung Kim , Philippines , Jun Lozada , Rodrigo Roa Duterte
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