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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Philippines seeks explanation after Kuwait expels ambassador

The two states had been working to resolve differences sparked by the murder of Filipina maid

<p>Filipino Ambassador to Kuwait Renato PO Villa speaking during a press conference at the Philippines embassy in Kuwait City. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP</p>
Filipino Ambassador to Kuwait Renato PO Villa speaking during a press conference at the Philippines embassy in Kuwait City. Yasser Al Zayyat / AFP

The Philippines demanded an explanation on Thursday after its ambassador to Kuwait was expelled from the country.

Kuwait announced on Wednesday that the Philippines ambassador Renato Villa has one week to leave after videos emerged of embassy staff helping one of its nationals flee from allegedly abusive employers, which Kuwait called a violation of its sovereignty.

"President Rodrigo Duterte and everyone else was shocked at this development because the president's meeting with the Kuwaiti ambassador went well," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

A Philippines foreign ministry statement said the expulsion was "deeply disturbing" and it will ask for an explanation.

The two states had been working to resolve differences sparked by the murder of a Filipina maid, whose body was found stuffed in her employer's freezer in Kuwait earlier this year.

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The video shows a man rushing a woman into a black vehicle carrying diplomatic licence plates, while another showed a person running from what looked like a construction site and speeding off in a car.

The move follows an apology from the Philippines for what Kuwait called "a breach of their sovereignty".

Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al Jarallah said on Tuesday that the embassy had violated the country’s sovereignty and that it had failed to work with the local authorities.

Tensions rose earlier this year following the murder of maid Joanna Demafelis, prompting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to ban workers from deploying to Kuwait for work.

Relations appeared to recover after a Kuwaiti court sentenced to death in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife for Ms Demafelis's killing.

Following the verdict, Mr Duterte announced plans to visit Kuwait this month to seal an agreement on workplace safety guarantees for the 252,000 Filipinos already working there.

The proposed deal would have set terms for vacation leaves, food and custody of passports, Mr Roque said, adding that the visit timing was now in doubt.

Some 10 million Filipinos work abroad and the money they remit back is a lifeline of the Philippine economy.