DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Philippines and Kuwait would no longer be pursued and that he would not be flying to the Gulf state anymore.
“No,” was his definite answer when asked if the MOU would still push through and if he would be witnessing its signing.
The President said the ban he had ordered against deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait would also now become permanent.
“The ban stays permanently. There will be no more recruitment – especially domestic helpers. No more,” he said.
Instead, the President said the government was considering sending OFWs to China and other areas.
“China is also getting some 1,000 teachers. Maybe we can give them the preference,” he said.
“Now, we can always appeal to the other nations for a concession. And you know what, however you look at China, I consider China a friend… China now to me is a true friend. So many things coming our way, out of the pure generosity of the Chinese people,” he said.
The President said OFWs could also train their eyes on Japan.
“This aging societies, (such as) Japan. There would be a lot of caregivers (needed),” he said, adding that the Technical Education and Skills development Authority (Tesda) could help develop or train OFWs.
“Many countries today are suffering from the shortage of human being. They don’t want to bear children like the Japanese,” he said.
The President said the situation in Kuwait could be eventually addressed.
“We will survive,” he added.
He said the government would “look for the jobs” for those coming home from Kuwait.
He said some of them could take jobs in Luzon, where “many construction (activities were) going on.” /cbb
“That’s the Build, Build, Build, and also in Mindanao, you just wait for about a few months,” he said.
The President said the Chinese government was already preparing to take on projects, including the construction of a bridge that would connect Davao City and Samal Island.
“Another thing, I will ask the LGUs to help. I said, we might be suffering a little bit. Let us sacrifice a little bit,” he said. “Everything will [straighten out], yu’ll see. We can adjust,”
He added: “We are improving in our growth, economy.”
“We are hitting six. They expect to end up something like 6.8. That’s a huge number actually for economic growth,” he said.
The President admitted that the number of OFWs that might be returning from Kuwait was way more than the government had documented.
“There are aplenty of them. That’s the reason why I am as worried as you… concerned. Many of them went there undocumented and those who are really victims of recruiters,” he said.
He said the government could use the “almost 4.6 something billion” pesos that Chinese President Xi Jinping had given the Philippines as economic assistance.
“It’s good the money is there, it was being kept. I was intending to use the money to rebuild or refurbish the hospitals outside of Metro Manila,” he said.
But now, the President said he would put the money to use to assist Filipinos who would be displaced by the row with Kuwait.
“And once we start to withdraw all Filipinos there in Kuwait, maybe I’ll tell you the result of our intervention in behalf of our countrymen,” he added.
He said part of the money could be used to settle the cases of about 700 OFWs facing charges in Kuwaiti courts.
Despite the row with Kuwait, the President said he did not harbor a grudge against the people of the Gulf state.
“I do not nurture hate against the Kuwaiti people and government for after all, the so many years that we were in the best of relations. There are a lot of guys working there for so many years to enable their children to study and finish. And for that matter alone, the sheer help that we had. I’m grateful,” he said.
But he also said that the Philippines also helped Kuwait “when it was suffering because of the fighting with Iraq.”
“So it evens up everything. We helped in their hour of need and I could not think why I would, I said, nothing of a sort, vengeance,” he added.
He said his only concern now was to bring home OFWs from Kuwait.
“And I would spend the entire four point something billion to get about,” he said.
The President even quoted Sen. JV Ejercito in defending the government’s action in Kuwait.
“I think he was the one who made the comment that he’d rather see Filipinos coming, going out, being forced out, or taken out forcibly rather than see them coming home in a casket,” he added, referring to the now controversial rescue of OFWs by Embassy officials in Kuwait.
“Mine is to get them all. I hope they would agree on that,” he said.
He said he would tell Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano “to start the mobilization immediately.”
“The money is there. If it went to the National Treasury already, I can always use emergency fund. To me it’s a calamity. It is a calamity,” he added.
For those wanting to remain in Kuwait, the President said he could only appeal to their sense of patriotism.
“The economy is doing good and we are short of our workers. We don’t have any master carpenter, no master plumber, no master electricians. They are all there in the Middle East,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said that there had not been any case of recent abuse against Filipinos in Singapore.
“I haven’t heard anything until now. So with Hong Kong and the others. Minor maybe. But never, never ends up with a physical abuse like whipping and being kicked and being boxed and suffering injuries,” he added.
As to who will replace Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa, the President said the Department of Foreign Affairs could easily address it.
He said there were a lot of officials at the DFA who could take on the job. /cbb