Villanueva seeks review of PH labor agreement with Kuwait

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva (Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva is seeking a comprehensive review of the labor agreement between the Philippines and Kuwait in response to the increasing cases of abuse experienced by Filipino migrant workers in the Gulf State.

Villanueva cited the cases of Kuwait-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Jullebee Ranara, who was allegedly killed at the hands of her employer, and Myla Balbag, who reportedly fell from the third floor of her employer’s house in an attempt to escape.

“After these two unfortunate incidents, we need to carefully study if the policies are fair and being followed and clearly set the parameters on when to impose a ban and when to lift,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Villanueva had earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 456, which urges the executive department to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 190 concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.

This, according to the senator, will call for a review on the principles of the international labor standards and also allow the Philippines the option to raise the alarming concern of OFW killings to the ILO supervisory bodies.

“The brutal killing of Ranara happened even amid an existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippines and Kuwait on the kafala system, which lays down the obligations in the treatment and protection of foreign workers,” he said.

Citing data from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Villanueva pointed out that 24,549 OFW welfare cases had been recorded in Kuwait as of 2022–8,755 are cases of contract violation, 823 are physical maltreatment, 99 are sexual abuse and 26 are rape.

He then noted the significant leap from only 6,536 OFW welfare cases recorded in 2016.

In view of these, Villanueva also stressed in his resolution the “urgent need to strengthen government’s protection to our OFWs to stop the killings and maltreatments.”

“Let’s give our OFWs reassurance that their government is doing their best to make sure that they are protected and that their rights are not violated,” he added.

The gruesome killing of 35-year-old Ranara had reignited calls by several lawmakers to again halt the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.

But despite this clamor, DMW chief Susan Ople said she does not see the need to reimpose a deployment ban as she argued that diplomacy is the “all-important first step in resolving labor migration concerns.”


OFW rape-slay in Kuwait spurs new calls to halt deployment

House urges probe of gov’t migration policies