Roque: PH-Kuwait relations back to ‘normal’ after MOA signing
After a diplomatic row that saw Kuwait expel the Philippine ambassador, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said relations between the two countries had returned to normal.
Roque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello and former labor chief Marianito Roque were back in Manila from Kuwait late Saturday after the signing on May 11of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to the Gulf state.
“Normal na ang samahan ng Philippines at Kuwait (The diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Kuwait returned to normal),” he told reporters at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
However, in a later ambush interview, Roque said ties between the two states were “nagiging normal na” or was just normalizing.
Roque said the MOA signing was a sign that both countries had “agreed to move on.”
“We have both learned from the experience – and that experience will make our friendship and ties with them even stronger,” he added.
The signing of MOA was stalled and the two country’s relations were further strained, after a video of a “rescue mission” of distressed overseas Filipino workers angered Kuwaiti officials.
They filed a diplomatic protest, saying it was a violation of their sovereignty and diplomatic protocols.
This led to the arrest of four drivers of the Philippine Embassy involved in the rescue mission, and threats of arrest for kidnapping charges against three diplomatic officials.
The Kuwaiti government later declared Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa “persona non grata.” It also recalled its envoy, Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad al-Thwaikh.
According to Roque, the four drivers were already freed, while the three diplomats would be flying back in Manila on Sunday (Kuwaiti time).
The presidential spokesperson said Philippine Embassy officials were not yet off the hook, as the DFA, led by Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, conducted an investigation on the accountability of his men.
“Naging maselan ang usapan pero tingin ko ay humupa na po ang tensyon at naiintindihan naman nila na kinakailangan nating protektahan ang ating mga kababayan,” Roque noted.
Bello said that part of Kuwait’s goodwill was their commitment to send back to Manila and shouldering the airfare of at least 600 remaining undocumented OFWs.
Returning home with the Philippine government delegation on Saturday night were 87 OFWs. Each received P10,000 cash assistance from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
According to Bello, he already recommended to President Duterte a partial lifting of the deployment ban, but only allowing skilled and technical workers to return to work in Kuwait. Roque said this would be done on Tuesday.
The President ordered the ban in February after authorities found Filipino domestic helper Joanna Demafelis dead inside a freezer in Kuwait. The suspects, her own employers, Nader Essam Assa and Mona Hassoun, are facing trial for murder after their respective arrest in Lebanon and Syria. /cbb
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