MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait on Monday, February 12.
In Administrative Order No. 54 issued by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday, the Philippine government said the ban is due to a "series of reports involving abuse and death of OFWs in Kuwait." It is effective immediately.
The government had initially suspended the processing and issuance of overseas employment certificates for workers bound for Kuwait last January 19, after 7 OFW deaths were reported.
The order to implement the total ban came from President Rodrigo Duterte, Bello said. (READ: Duterte lashes out at Kuwait over mistreatment of Filipino workers)
The labor secretary added that the administrative order may force the Kuwaiti government to sign the proposed agreement mandating the additional protection of Filipino workers.
Bello clarified, however, that the department will still have to study whether returning OFWs or those under the Balik Manggagawa program who are currently on vacation in the Philippines would be covered by the order.
Hours before the ban was put in place, the first batch of repatriated Filipino workers arrived in Manila from Kuwait.
A total of 377 workers, who arrived aboard 3 commercial flights, were welcomed by labor and foreign affairs officials.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they are expected to repatriate as many as 10,000 overstaying Filipinos, under an amnesty program.
As of Monday, there have been 2,229 workers who have been issued travel documents, and 1,754 cleared by immigration authorities, according to Bello, as quoted by a press release from the DFA.
DOLE has ordered the suspension or cancellation of the registration of agencies that recruited OFWs who were abused, the labor secretary said.
The ban came after Filipino domestic helper Joanna Daniella Demafelis, 29, was found dead in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait. Her remains had reportedly been stored there for a year. Authorities said marks on her body indicate she was strangled to death.
"We ordered OWWA to conduct an investigation [into] the alleged inaction of our welfare officer and labor attaché in Kuwait on the case of Joanna Demafelis," Bello said.
Alejandro Padeen has served as labor attaché to Kuwait since February 2017, replacing Angelita Narvaez who was subjected to a DOLE recall order. – Rappler.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story reported that DOLE issued a recall order to acting labor attaché Angelita Narvaez this February. This has been corrected.