MANILA — The Philippines this month will negotiate a template contract for its workers in Kuwait, after the killing of a Filipina maid there by her employers prompted a partial deployment ban of Filipino workers to the oil-rich state, the labor ministry said Friday.
The contract will be in accordance with a memorandum of agreement that the 2 countries signed in 2018, banning Kuwaiti employers from confiscating the passports and cellphones of Filipino workers, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.
Filipino workers will also have working and sleeping hours under the contract, and cannot be transferred to another employer without the consent of the Philippine labor attaché, he said.
"Iyon ang pag-uusapan namin nitong second week. Pinipilit nga ako na kami ang pupunta doon. Sabi ko, hindi, kayo (Kuwaiti officials) ang pupunta rito," Bello told radio DZMM.
(That's what we will talk about on the second week of January. They are asking us to go to Kuwait. I said, no, you should go here.)
From Friday, Filipino household workers are barred from leaving for Kuwait, said Bello.
The deployment ban, which excludes skilled workers, was prompted by the death of Filipina maid Jeanelyn Villavende allegedly at the hands of her employers, who are now detained.
Villavende complained of "maltreatment and underpayment of salary" to her manpower agency several months before her death, said Bello.
Kuwait is home to 262,000 Filipinos, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy, according to the foreign ministry.
Manila and Kuwait's 2018 employment pact came after a string of reported abuse and deaths of Filipino workers, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in her employer's freezer.
The incident prompted the Philippine government to suspend the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait and initiate a repatriation program for those who would like to come home. Kuwait, meanwhile, expelled Manila's ambassador and recalling its own envoy after Filipino officials rescued alleged workers in distress.