PH apologizes to Kuwait for mission to rescue maids
The Philippines has apologized to Kuwait for its mission to rescue abused Filipino housemaids that went awry, but says it will continue to protect its citizens in distress.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters on Tuesday that he would send a second diplomatic note to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs containing the apology, as well as the commitments to prevent a recurrence that he said both sides made at a meeting between Philippine officials led by President Rodrigo Duterte and Kuwaiti Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh, held at the Presidential Guest House in Davao City on Monday night.
“Again we are apologizing for certain incidents that the Kuwaitis view as a violation of their sovereignty, but we have explained to them that these acts, we felt, were necessary for saving and protecting Filipino lives,” Cayetano said.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that relations with Kuwait remained fine after the meeting.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte promised Althwaikh to respect Kuwait’s sovereignty, though the President emphasized that it was the Philippines’ duty to protect its citizens working in other countries.
“They parted on a positive note, emphasizing that while the Philippines will always exercise its obligation to protect its nationals abroad, it will do so in a manner respecting the sovereignty of Kuwait,” Roque said.
An agreement for the regulation of working conditions for Filipino migrant workers would still be signed with Kuwait despite the incident, he added.
Saturday’s rescue mission became controversial after the Philippine Embassy released a video to the media showing embassy staff members convincing Filipino housemaids to leave their employers’ homes and return to the Philippines.
The video went viral, sending Kuwaitis protesting in front of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait City and demanding respect for the sovereignty of the Arab state.
Kuwaiti police arrested two Philippine Embassy staff members and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Philippine Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa thrice for a scolding and handed him two notes of protest.
Members of the Kuwaiti parliament also demanded the expulsion of Villa.
Villa also apologized to Kuwait on Tuesday. He read a statement containing his apology, but took no questions from journalists in Kuwait City.
There were calls in the Philippines on Tuesday for the ouster of Villa and other embassy officials involved in the incident, but their heads remained safe, according to sources in Davao City, as Mr. Duterte “appeared to have accepted” Cayetano’s explanation that the rescue operation was necessary because “lives were in danger.”
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who described the rescue mission on Tuesday as “poorly planned and irresponsible,” sought an explanation from the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.
“The perception that this is a publicity stunt under the cover of a rescue mission comes from the fact that immediately after the rescue, a video of the ‘covert operation’ obviously taken by the raiding team itself was posted on social media for maximum publicity effect,” Biazon said in a statement.
“Not only does that go against the nature of a covert operation, it also seemed to be a slap in the face of the host country, showing impunity that the raiding team displayed within its territory,” he added.
Sen. Franklin Drilon said he would oppose any move to sack Villa, but Sen. Cynthia Villar said letting go of the envoy could help cool the situation.
No changes planned
Cayetano gave no indication of changes in the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait were coming after the controversy.
He confirmed that two Filipinos were arrested but he said that he explained to Althwaikh that the two men did not take part in the rescue operation because they were just drivers.
He said the embassy was still checking whether a third staff member had also been arrested.
Cayetano said there was no threat from the Kuwaiti government to expel Villa.
There are 30 officials and employees in the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Last week’s mission was a bid to beat the April 22 deadline set by the Kuwaiti government for the expulsion of migrants illegally working in the Gulf state.
More than 200 migrants, all domestic helpers, returned to Manila on Monday on a flight paid for by the government, bringing to more than 400 the number of Filipino illegals who agreed to repatriation under an amnesty plan worked out by the Philippines with Kuwait.
Cayetano said 600 Filipinos remained in a shelter for migrant workers in Kuwait and that the Philippine Embassy was working for their “immediate repatriation.” —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, DJ Yap, Christine O. Avendaño, Allan Nawal and AP
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