THE PHILIPPINES will review its bilateral labor agreement with Kuwait, the presidential palace said on Sunday, after the murder of a Filipina domestic worker whose charred body was found in a desert in the Middle Eastern country this month.
Kuwaiti police have arrested the 17-year-old son of her employer on murder charges. The body of Jullebee Ranara, 35, arrived in the Philippines on Friday evening.
Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” V. Ople had ordered her agency to revisit the agreement and look for ways to ensure the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFW), the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement.
“Secretary Ople also told us to look into the recruitment standards and strengthen safe and ethical standards to ensure our overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait are safe,” Migrant Workers Undersecretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac told a briefing in mixed English and Filipino on Saturday.
“We have a directive to examine our recruitment system and to ensure that only agencies with clean track records can deploy OFWs to Kuwait.”
He said the bilateral agreement, which was signed in 2018, expired in May 2022 and had been automatically renewed.
There are about 268,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, 195,000 of whom are working as domestic workers, according to the agency.
It has ruled out a deployment ban on the Gulf country and would instead work on an enhanced bilateral labor agreement to ensure benefits, security and protection for Filipino workers, Ms. Ople said in a statement last week.
The International Labor Organization has said only 6% of domestic workers worldwide have access to comprehensive protection including medical care and unemployment benefits.
About 80% of the 1.4 million domestic workers in the Philippines are not covered by social security benefits, the Labor department and Philippine Statistics Authority said in a 2019 report.
The Philippines in 2018 imposed a worker deployment ban to the Gulf country after the killing of Filipina domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment. It partially lifted that same year after the two countries signed a protection agreement for workers.
In May 2019, Filipina maid Constancia Lago Dayag was killed in Kuwait, and a few months later, another one, Jeanelyn Villavende, was tortured by her employer to death.
The government again imposed a deployment ban in January 2020, which it lifted when Kuwaiti authorities charged Ms. Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to hanging. — John Victor D. Ordoñez