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Duterte to ‘honor’ Kuwait with visit over OFW deal

/ 07:12 AM April 14, 2018

HK CROWD DRAWER President Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio (center), meet members of the Filipino community at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on April 12. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

HONG KONG—“To give honor to the Kuwaiti government,” which had agreed to a deal giving Filipino domestic helpers better treatment, President Duterte said he would go to Kuwait “at any time” to witness the signing of the accord.

In a speech before overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) here on  Thursday, Mr. Duterte said the Kuwaiti government had agreed to the terms he had imposed as a precondition for the lifting of the deployment ban on OFWs bound for the Gulf state.

The Philippine government imposed the ban following the death of Filipino maid Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found inside a freezer a year after she was reported missing.

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Her employers, the main suspects in the killing,  fled Kuwait but were recently arrested and sentenced to death in absentia.

Day off once a week

According to the deal, OFWs would be allowed to have a day off once a week, keep their passports and cell phones, and cook their own food.

“I will go there for the signing (ceremony) just to witness it,” Duterte said in a speech during his visit here.

He said he had been ready to bite the bullet and spend all available money to help workers who would be jobless because of his deployment ban.

But now that Kuwait had agreed to his conditions, the President said he “would insist that (employers) honor every word (of the deal). So that it’s OK with me. At any time, I would go there,” he said.

According to government statistics, more than 252,000 OFWs work in the Gulf state, many as maids. They are among at least 2 million Filipinos employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the local economy.

Mr. Duterte’s deployment ban sparked a diplomatic flap. He alleged that Arab employers routinely raped their Filipina workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day, and fed them scraps. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP

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