The Philippines on Friday halted the transfer of workers to Kuwait a day after the country’s president said employers had driven domestic staff to suicide.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday the country had “lost four women” in Kuwait in a reference to four domestic workers that had been abused and committed suicide.
He also said he was aware of many cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women in the Gulf country and wanted to “just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore”.
A day after the comments, Philippine labour secretary Silvestre Belo told Reuters that no more Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would be sent to Kuwait pending investigations into the causes of death of six or seven nationals.
He did not say when the deaths took place.
Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah told state news agency KUNA on Friday that he regretted Duterte’s remarks.
He said the department had immediately contacted the Philippines to clarify its intentions behind the statement and the four cases mentioned “cannot be used as a criterion to assess the overall status of the Philippine labourers in the country”.
The deputy foreign minister added that legal measures had been initiated regarding the four cases.
Kuwait enjoys “a bright image in treating the expatriate workers and has laws that preserve their rights and organise their relations with the employers,” he said.
Philippines ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa told Kuwait Times that he had sent a letter to the country’s interior ministry in June expressing the “points, comments and observations” of a team of observers.
No response was received to the first letter or a follow-up in August, according to the official.
“Perhaps now, after the ban, they’ll notice it,” he said.
Villa indicated in the Friday interview that he had yet to receive instructions from the Philippines government but he expected the ban to only apply to domestic workers.
The Gulf state’s foreign ministry estimates there are more than 170,000 Filipinos are living there. The Philippines foreign ministry says more than 250,000 nationals live in Kuwait.
In 2016, the Philippines said it would continue to demand a premium salary for its workers in Kuwait after the country set a minimum salary of KD60 ($198.54) for domestic workers.