Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait

Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait
The Philippines announced Thursday it will stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait, following the death of one of its citizens in the Gulf state. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 03 January 2020

Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait

Philippines imposes partial ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait
  • The exact date of Villavende’s death is yet to be determined, pending the results of an autopsy

MANILA: The Philippines announced Thursday it will stop sending domestic workers to Kuwait, following the death of one of its citizens in the Gulf state allegedly at the hands of her employer’s wife.

Reports say that Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende, from South Cotabato, died of injuries after being taken to a hospital by her male employer. “I will issue a directive that there will be a partial deployment ban, which means that we will not deploy new workers in the meantime,” said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

A statement from the Department of Labor and Employment said the partial ban only applied to first-time workers who will serve as household help in Kuwait. It does not cover skilled and returning workers or those who are on vacation. 

But Bello warned that the government may impose a total work ban if justice was not served for Villavende. 

“This should serve as a clear message to Kuwaiti authorities. The partial ban may ripen into a total deployment ban if justice for Jeanelyn Villavende is not met.”

He added that an initial report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuwait said: “Villavende was beaten to death, and was already dead when brought to a hospital. Attending nurses reported that she was ‘black and blue’.” 

The exact date of Villavende’s death is yet to be determined, pending the results of an autopsy.

Her female employer is now in the custody of Kuwaiti authorities, Bello said, and Villavende’s local recruitment agency was also being held responsible for its failure to act on her request for repatriation months before her brutal death.

“We will also ask Villavende’s recruitment agency to explain their inaction. As early as September, she already complained about maltreatment and underpayment of salary. She also repeatedly requested the agency for repatriation, but they did not do anything,” said Bello. 

Villavende’s local recruitment agency faces the possible cancellation of its license, according to the secretary. Labor officials said Villavende’s family was last able to talk to her in October. The family called her on Dec. 13 but it was her female employer who answered the call and said that Villavende was busy.

Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who went to South Cotabato to express his condolences, said her death and funeral expenses would be covered. Her family will receive livelihood assistance and there will be an education scholarship for her youngest sibling.

Villavende’s death has sparked outrage in the Philippines which, in 2018, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kuwait providing protection to overseas foreign workers in the Gulf state.

The presidential palace condemned Villavende’s death, saying it was a clear violation of this agreement.

“We consider Jeanelyn’s tragic death a clear disregard of the agreement signed by both our country and Kuwait in 2018 which seeks to uphold and promote the protection of the rights and welfare of our workers in Kuwait,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo. “We look forward to its resolution for the rendition of justice to the deceased and her family.”

The Philippines imposed a total deployment ban in 2018 following the gruesome death of Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer at her employers’ Kuwaiti apartment.

Demafelis’ death led to a diplomatic crisis between Philippines and Kuwait, which lasted several months.

Manila imposed a ban on Filipino workers in the Gulf state, while Kuwait ordered the Philippines ambassador to leave the country and recalled its own envoy.

The rocky period ended after a deal was signed to protect overseas foreign workers and the Philippines announced the lifting of the deployment ban.


Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
Updated 15 January 2021

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries

Blow to global vaccine drive as Pfizer delays deliveries
  • Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine
  • There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised

BERLIN: A global coronavirus vaccine rollout suffered a major blow Friday as Pfizer said it would delay shipments of the jabs in the next three to four weeks due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
Pfizer said the modifications at the Puurs factory were necessary in order to ramp up its production capacity from mid-February of the vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech.
There will be “a significant increase” in deliveries in late February and March, the US group promised. The European Commission also confirmed that promised doses for the first quarter will arrive within the period.
But European Union nations, which are desperately waiting for more doses to immunize their populations against the virus that has already claimed almost two million lives worldwide, expressed frustration.
Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, voiced regret over the “last minute and unexpected” delay.
It urged the European Commission — which undertook joint procurement for the bloc — to “seek clarity and certainty” for upcoming shipments.
Six northern EU nations also warned in a letter to the Commission that the “unacceptable” situation “decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”
The letter signed by ministers from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden further asked the Commission to “demand a public explanation of the situation” from the pharmaceutical companies.
Across the Atlantic, Canada also said it was impacted by the delays, calling it “unfortunate.”
“However, such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” said Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed at record-breaking speed, became the first to be approved for general use by a Western country on December 2 when Britain gave it the go ahead.
After Britain rolled out its immunization drive, the EU followed from December 27.
The latest shipment delay will likely add fuel to anger over the bloc’s vaccination campaign, which has already been criticized for being too slow compared to the United States or former EU member Britain.
The European Commission has also been accused of not securing enough doses early enough.
Just last week, the EU struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to 600 million doses.
The urgency of immunizing the population has grown over fears of virus variants first seen in South Africa and Britain, which officials warn are more infectious.
But vaccine makers had repeatedly warned that production capacity was limited.
While Pfizer is augmenting capacity at Puurs, its partner BioNTech on Friday secured authorization to begin production at Germany’s Marburg.
The challenges of getting millions of vaccines around the world are also huge as the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centers in specially-designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.
Once out of ultra-cold storage, the vaccine must be kept at two Celsius to eight Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.