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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Philippines suspends sending workers to Kuwait

Kuwait says it 'regrets' comments made by Duterte on the treatment of Philippine workers in the Gulf country

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte says four Filipino domestic helpers committed suicide after being abused in Kuwait. Veejay Villafranca / Bloomberg
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte says four Filipino domestic helpers committed suicide after being abused in Kuwait. Veejay Villafranca / Bloomberg

The Philippines says it has suspended sending workers to Kuwait as it investigates the deaths of several Filipinos there.

It came as Kuwait said legal measures had been taken in the cases of four domestic workers who the Philippine president said had committed suicide after being abused in Kuwait.

Philippine labour secretary Silvestre Belo said on Friday that no more Filipino workers would be sent to the GCC country "pending investigation of the causes of deaths of about six or seven of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)".

He did not refer to specific cases or say when the deaths took place. But a day earlier president Rodrigo Duterte said his country had "lost four women" in Kuwait, referring to domestic helpers who he said had committed suicide after suffering abuse.

Mr Duterte, who is hugely popular among the Filipino diaspora, said he was aware of many cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women and wanted to raise it with Kuwait and "state the truth and just tell them that it's not acceptable anymore".

"Either we impose a total ban or we have the correction," he added.

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There are more than 250,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, according to an estimate by the Philippine foreign ministry, most working as domestic helpers.

Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister Khaled Al Jarallah said on Friday he regretted Mr Duterte's remarks and that his department had contacted the Philippine authorities to determine the motives behind them and refute erroneous information, Kuwait's state news agency reported.

He said there were more than 170,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait and that therefore the four cases mentioned by Mr Duterte "cannot be used as a criterion to assess the overall status of the Philippes' labourers in the country".

Legal measures had been taken in the four cases, he said, adding that Kuwait has laws that preserve the rights of foreign workers.

More than 2.3 million Filipinos are documented as working abroad. Collectively they remit more than US$2 billion of their income back to the Philippines every month, money that fuels robust consumer spending in one of the world's fastest-growing economies.