Sen. Joseph Victor “JV’’ Ejercito condemned Saturday the death of a Filipina worker in Kuwait and urged government to review all deployment policies for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, has called on the national government to ensure jobs and livelihood assistance to returning distressed OFWs who will be repatriated from Kuwait.

There are 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait of which 75 percent are domestic helpers.

“I condemn the death of Joanna Daniella Demafelis in Kuwait as well as the reported 82 other OFW deaths in Kuwait in 2016,” Ejercito said.

Ejercito also said he fully supports the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to ban OFW deployment to Kuwait.

He, likewise, urged the Kuwaiti government to investigate the deaths of Filipino workers and ensure the protection of all migrant workers in their country.

“We value our foreign relations with the people of Kuwait but we cannot stand idly by as our kababayans suffer from inhuman treatment,” he added.

Ejercito also called upon government agencies to provide assistance to the families of the victims. The Philippine government should review policies concerning the deployment of OFWs in all countries, he added.

“Let us review bilateral agreements in order to make sure that our countrymen are protected by their host countries and where there are no assurance of protection let us rethink our deployment policy,” he explained, adding that Kuwait has not yet signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to protect Filipino migrant workers.

“This unfortunate development lends urgency to our task of sustaining economic growth and providing more employment so that our people would not have to risk their lives working in other countries,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to bring home overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwsait within 72 hours following the discovery of the Filipina’s body in a freezer in that Gulf State.

“Bukod sa pagsiguro sa kanilang kaligtasan, dapat ay may trabaho at tulong pangkabuhayan na naghihintay para sa ating mga kababayan mula sa Kuwait,” said Angara, sponsor of the law strengthening the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). (Aside from ensuring their safety, the government should help the returning OFWs find jobs and given livelihood.)

The new OWWA law (or Republic Act 10801) has improved the government’s capacity to assist OFWs who lost their jobs or those who decided to return to the Philippines by providing funding for OFW programs and services from the national budget.

OWWA’s reintegration program includes employment and livelihood training, access to credit, and grant money to start their own business.

Under its Balik Pilipinas, Balik Hanapbuhay Program, beneficiaries can get cash grants amounting to P20,000.

OWWA, together with Landbank, also provides P100,000 to P2 million loan with collateral requirement for those who want to establish businesses.

Aside from repatriation and reintegration, OWWA offers legal assistance, placement and remittance assistance, insurance coverage, social benefits, and educational assistance for OFW dependents. The President has declared that the suspension of deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait will not be lifted.
Some 300 Filipinos apply for work in Kuwait every day.

“We support the President’s ban on OFW deployment to Kuwait. Our kababayans (countrymen) do not deserve this kind of inhumane treatment. Sa halip na disenteng trabaho, pang-aabuso ang napala nila doon,” Angara, vice chairman of the Senate labor committee, said. (Instead of a decent work, our OFWs are maltreated and abused.)

Many OFWs there have complained of being treated badly, receiving no salary and other forms of abuse.
“We should intensify our job creation programs. Kung may sapat na trabaho sa bansa, hindi na nila kailangang magtrabaho abroad at iwan ang kanilang pamilya,” Angara added. (Filipinos will not leave their country and their families to find decent jobs abroad if there are sufficient jobs in the Philippines.)
Angara had shepherded the passage of nine labor laws to address unemployment in the country.

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