Villa expulsion seen to affect PH-Kuwait OFW protection deal
SINGAPORE – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano indicated on Thursday night that the expulsion of Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Rene Villa has suspended for the meantime the efforts of Manila and Kuwait to sign an agreement for the protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf State as well as the lifting of the deployment ban of Filipino maids there.
Cayetano also indicated that the government has a contingency plan for the 260,000 Filipinos, 170,000 of which were Filipino domestic helpers.
Speaking to reporters, Cayetano said it was the “President’s call” on what would happen with the memorandum of agreement that Manila and Kuwait was preparing to sign and to be witnessed by President Duterte in the Philippines before the Holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
But he also said he had recommended to labor officials earlier to wait for a week after their meeting between the President and Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Athwaikh last April 22 to see the actions to be taken by the Gulf State on the assurances they made with them.
“Now this is happening why would I recommend that we sign the memorandum and lifting of the ban but we’re hoping this will be clarified,” said Cayetano who arrived here ahead of President Duterte who will attend the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit of leaders.
He said that they were hoping Kuwait would clarify the “misunderstanding.”
“We’re hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst,” Cayetano also said.
Cayetano said Villa will come home and will be replaced by his charge d’affaires in the embassy but he reiterated Manila was still awaiting Kuwait’s clarification.
“If they don’t respond or reverse their decision in one week he (Villa) has to follow,” said Cayetano.
The Kuwaiti government has ordered Villa to leave the country in one week after he was deemed unacceptable following a rescue operation of abused Filipino maids that angered Kuwaiti officials for allegedly violating its laws.
In a news briefing at the Orchard Singapore hotel here, Cayetano said that “ordinarily” he would not ask for a clarification on Villa’s expulsion because it was always completely the right of the host country not to explain if it wants to expel a diplomat.
“But when they ask me, `Could you find it in your heart —-that’s my words but that’s how i took it — to issue an apology? and even advise me how to frame it without compromising our stand so we can solve 1,2, 3 and 4 and assured me Ambassador Villa is not only welcome but liked so that’s why I’m asking for clarification not because he was removed per se which is within their right but why assure me when you want him there and you suddenly do this,” Cayetano said.
He was referring to the apology he issued for the rescue operations of abused Filipino maids which were not coordinated with police but were done because it was a life and death situation or what he said on Thursday that they would rather err on the right side.
The foreign secretary said that he found the expulsion of Villa disturbing given that Kuwaiti Ambassador had assured them that the Philippine ambassador could finish his tour of duty.
Asked whether the government has a backup plan in the Kuwait crisis, Cayetano said the President had given him “directions” should there would be a need to bring home Filipinos in Kuwait and even where to get the funds as well as countries that could help absorb them.
“It’s difficult to come up with a contingency plan that’s perfect but it’s there,” he said.
Cayetano reminded the President had said before if Kuwait could not take care of Filipinos there then he would send them home “or I shouldn’t be President.”
“And I have the same stand, if I can’t solve this I shouldn’t be Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” Cayetano added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.