Duterte ban leaves 10,000 Filipinos stranded

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) look on after arriving in Manila from Kuwait at Manila International Airport. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018

Duterte ban leaves 10,000 Filipinos stranded

MANILA: As Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made good on his threat to ban his citizens from going to Kuwait for work, some 10,000 Filipino workers are now stranded in their home country despite having all the necessary documents, said recruitment and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani.

“Filipinos who want to work in Kuwait are being prevented from being able to earn income for their families,” he told Arab News.

“Around 10,000 are stranded (in the Philippines), both skilled and household service workers.”

Recruitment agencies, which collect full payment once workers start their employment, are incurring considerable costs in having paid for their training, as well as feeding and accommodating them while they wait to leave, he added.

The Philippine government on Monday ordered the ban, weeks after Duterte complained about abuses and maltreatment suffered by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait.

But Geslani said: “Out of the 170,000 Filipino household workers in Kuwait, only 2 percent really have problems.”

The ban covers all workers being sent for the first time to Kuwait for employment, without distinction as to skill, profession or type of work. But Geslani said the ban should only cover household workers, not those who are skilled.

The Philippines has also started repatriating thousands of OFWs in Kuwait. So far, more than 2,200 have been issued travel documents, and 1,754 have been granted immigration clearance.

Those interviewed by Arab News, most of them household workers, said they went to Kuwait to provide a better life for their families. “Now I come home with virtually nothing for my children,” said Salama, from Cotabato City.

Citing figures from the Central Bank, Geslani said the ban will not have a major impact on the Philippine economy because OFW remittances from Kuwait account for only 3 percent of foreign remittances. That percentage “isn’t really big,” he added. “That’s about $1.5 billion annually.”

Jakarta imposes partial lockdown as virus cases surge

Updated 15 sec ago

Jakarta imposes partial lockdown as virus cases surge

  • Violators face heavy fines and up to a year in jail for breaking the new rules
  • Jakarta city data showed some 776 suspected and confirmed victims had been buried in local cemeteries
JAKARTA: Soldiers and police hit the streets of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta Friday to enforce its toughest social-distancing rules yet as coronavirus infections surge and critics warn of a looming public-health disaster.
Violators face heavy fines and up to a year in jail for breaking the new rules, which include a ban on gatherings of more than five people, limiting restaurants to online delivery orders and reducing public transport.
Motorbike taxis seen everywhere in the megacity of some 30 million were banned from picking up passengers and residents were ordered to stay home.
“I’ve been checking my smartphone all day but no orders so far,” said Embari, a ride-hailing driver who goes by one name.
“I know drivers can’t pick up passengers but I was hoping for some food delivery calls.”
Mosques and other houses of worship were ordered to shut for at least the next two weeks — after millions continued to attend Friday prayers in the Muslim majority nation, despite calls to worship at home.
President Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency last month as coronavirus deaths in the world’s fourth most populous country jumped.
But he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown fearing a collapse in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, where tens of millions eke out a living on poorly-paid, informal jobs.
Indonesia’s government has faced heavy criticism over its handling of the crisis and questions about the true number of deaths.
Officially, 280 people have died of the respiratory illness with 3,293 confirmed cases as of Thursday in the archipelago of more than 260 million.
That is the highest death toll for an Asian nation outside China.
But testing rates are among the lowest in the world and there are fears the number of dead could be much higher.
Jakarta city data showed some 776 suspected and confirmed victims had been buried in local cemeteries under COVID-19 protocols requiring bodies to be wrapped in plastic and quickly buried.
That is more than five times the official 142 dead in Jakarta, the epicenter of the outbreak in Indonesia.
Officials have admitted data collection among different jurisdictions is patchy and incomplete.
“The Indonesian government needs to ramp up testing to know the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The authorities should also uphold the right to information and provide accurate statistics to the public.”
Indonesia’s spy agency has projected some 95,000 infections by June.
A bleak assessment by the University of Indonesia’s public health department warned that the country could see a death toll of more than 240,000 if testing and quarantines are not ramped up.