Human rights watchdog urges Kuwait to agree on new worker safeguards with the Philippines

Jessica, center, sister of Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis whose body was found inside a freezer in Kuwait, cries in front of the wooden casket containing her at the international airport in Manila on February 16. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2018

Human rights watchdog urges Kuwait to agree on new worker safeguards with the Philippines

DUBAI: Human Rights Watch called on Kuwait to agree to greater protection for migrant workers as a Philippine delegation was due in the emirate Thursday to discuss an outcry over alleged abuses of Filipinos.
But the New York-based watchdog also criticized a ban imposed by the Philippines last week on migrants leaving to work in Kuwait, saying it was likely to increase the number resorting to unregulated channels that exposed them to a greater risk of abuse.
President Rodrigo Duterte imposed the ban in response to the murder of a Filipino maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this month.
He triggered a diplomatic row with Kuwait by alleging that Arab employers routinely raped their Filipino workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day and fed them scraps.
“Kuwait should confront the outcry over deaths, beatings and rapes of domestic workers by taking immediate steps to reform the kafala system, which traps workers with abusive employers,” HRW’s Middle East women’s rights researcher Rothna Begum said in a statement late Wednesday.
The kafala or sponsorship system, widely prevalent in the oil-rich Gulf states, ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving or changing jobs without prior consent.
“The Philippines should work with Kuwait to protect workers rather than ban them from migrating, which is more likely to cause harm than to help,” Begum said.
“Both Kuwait and the Philippines have an opportunity to work together to increase protections for domestic workers and fix the gaps that are leaving workers vulnerable to extreme abuse.”
Kuwait has said it is investigating reported deaths and abuses, and insisted there were only a small number considering that there are more than 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait.
It has invited Duterte to visit the emirate but he has yet to respond.
The Philippine delegation due in Kuwait later on Thursday is headed by Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad.
It is due to travel on to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two other Gulf states with large Philippine migrant workforces.
In all, there are more than two million Filipinos working in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.
Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the delegation to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.
Duterte also wants Filipinos to have access to cellphones so they can call for help in case of abuse, Lagunzad said.


Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

In this handout photograph taken and released by Indian Presidential Palace on October 18, 2019, India's President Ram Nath Kovind (C-L) attends a press conference with Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte (C-R) at Malacanan Palace in Manila. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Philippines and India agree to strengthen defense, security ties

  • The two leaders agreed to strengthen maritime security ties

MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.
Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.
In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed to building a “partnership” between the Philippines and India “that enables us to face challenges to our hard-won progress, jointly and effectively.”
As Duterte welcomed India’s role in his country’s defense capability upgrade program, against the backdrop of growing security cooperation, he said they have agreed “to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”
Kovind said “both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,” and the two leaders “committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms
and manifestations.”
He added: “As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives.”
The two leaders also agreed to strengthen maritime security ties.
“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” Duterte said.

BACKGROUND

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said ‘both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,’ and the two leaders ‘committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.’

He added that they also discussed “the most pressing concerns of our region and beyond, such as maritime security and economic integration.”
Following their meeting, they witnessed the signing of maritime, tourism, science, technology and cultural agreements.
Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy to enhance maritime security by sharing information on nonmilitary and nongovernment shipping vessels between the two countries.
“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path toward enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation,” Duterte said.
“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations, the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”