Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

Filipino workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport on February 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

MANILA: A bilateral agreement to provide protection to Filipino workers will be signed soon by the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments.
Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that after a brief impasse in the two-day negotiations held in Manila, officials from both countries finally concurred on a draft migrant labor protection pact Friday evening.
In a telephone interview, Bello said the brief impasse was due to two remaining ticklish issues - one addressing the issue on OFW (overseas Filipino worker) passports being withheld by employers, and the second about employment contracts.
Bello said that while the Kuwaiti officials agreed to the Philippine government’s proposal that passports of Filipino workers should be deposited at the Philippine embassy and not withheld by employers, they (Kuwaiti officials) did not want this to be put in writing.
“But we insisted on putting that in the agreement. Finally they agreed,” Bello told Arab News.
“The other issue is that they wanted the employment contract to follow the Kuwaiti standard contract form. We did not agree. Eventually we had a neutral formulation that the contract will be drafted upon the joint agreement of Philippines and Kuwaiti,” said Bello.
That way, the employment contract will be in accordance with Philippine laws, he explained.
Other provisions of the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the $400 net-per-month salary of OFWs, with the employer opening a bank account where the salary of the worker will be deposited. This will be proof that the worker is being paid.
It was also agreed that an OFW must give a written consent in case of transfer from one employer to another, and the transfer must also be approved in writing by the Philippine labor attaché.
Bello said the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines will see him on Monday morning to discuss and decide on the date and venue of the signing of the agreement and who will be the signatories.
Usually the signatories are the head of the Kuwait Ministry of Labor and the Philippines’ secretary of labor, Bello said. He said the signing of the MoU would be easier and swifter if it were between the labor ministers of both countries. “Then probably we can schedule the signing next week,” he said.
At the same time, Bello said the signing of the pact will not guarantee the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“If you recall, the president imposed two conditions (for the lifting of the ban). First is that we have an agreement with Kuwait and second, Joanna (Demafelis) will be given justice. So we’ll have to wait for that,” said Bello.
It was the discovery of Demafelis’ body stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait that triggered the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.
Bello, however, said that this ban will not affect the Philippines-Kuwait relationship.
 


Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

Updated 16 July 2019
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Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan opened its airspace to civil aviation on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighboring India.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a so-called Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) published on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website.
The move by Pakistan, which lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor, offers a welcome break for international airlines after the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said that after the lifting of the NOTAMS, there were no further restrictions on airspace in either country.
“Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Pakistan closed its airspace in February after an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an armed standoff between the two nuclear-armed powers.
Both countries carried out aerial attacks over the other’s territory and warplanes fought a brief dogfight over the skies of the disputed Kashmir region during which an Indian fighter jet was shot down.
Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once the immediate crisis passed but restrictions continued to affect many international carriers using Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan’s announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until Oct. 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.