Kuwait expels Philippine envoy amid tensions over domestic workers

Filipino Ambassador to Kuwait Renato PO Villa speaking during a press conference at the Philippines embassy in Kuwait City. Yasser Al Zayyat  AFP

The Philippines confirmed on Thursday, April 26, that Kuwait has issued arrest warrants against 3 Filipino diplomats, while 4 of the embassy's Filipino hires remain in detention.

The Philippines has described Kuwait's decision on Wednesday to expel Manila's envoy to Kuwait and also recall its own ambassador to the Philippines as "deeply disturbing".

Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al Jarallah said on Tuesday that the embassy had violated the country's sovereignty and that it had failed to work with the local authorities.

Citing Kuwait's interior ministry, the Kuwait News Agency said that "inspectors have detained two Filipinos as they were enticing female housemaids of the same nationality to escape from their employers' households".

The two states had been working to resolve differences sparked by the murder of a Filipina maid, whose body was found stuffed in her employer's freezer in Kuwait earlier this year.

The DFA has summoned Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh, apparently to ask about the sudden expulsion of Villa, but was informed by the Kuwait Embassy in Manila that he has been recalled to his capital for consultations.

This means the Philippines needed to send another envoy to the Gulf State, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing, but gave no name for Villa's replacement.

Cayetano said the Philippine government is "hoping for the best and also preparing for the worst", as the signing was initially scheduled for the first week of May.

In a bid to put an end to the reported cases of abuse of Filipino workers, the Philippines and Kuwait were supposed to sign a bilateral agreement that would protect and uphold the OFWs' rights.

The ambassador had also assured the release of Filipino nationals hired to conduct "rescue" operations and the safe departure of Department of Foreign Affairs staff to Manila without incident, the department indicated.

The proposal sets terms for vacation leaves, food and custody of passports, Duterte's spokesman Roque said.

"After the meeting of the President with the Kuwaiti ambassador, we were convinced that all kinks had been ironed out, reinforced by the apology given by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs the following day", he said.

"Yes", Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III said when asked on Thursday if senators would support a clamor to suspend OFW deployment to Kuwait following the Kuwaiti government order for Villa to pack up, the latest development in the two countries' strained relations, which both had tried to fix with a new labor agreement that their leaders were set to sign soon, until Kuwait complained over the recent rescue of OFWs in distress. "Was he/she ever held to account for his/her actions by the Kuwaiti government", said Escudero, a member of the foreign relations committee.

Cayetano reiterated that Filipino officials resorted to rescuing the workers without coordination with their Kuwaiti as these were life-or-death situations.

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