Philippines vows respect for Kuwait amid OFW rescues

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines vows respect for Kuwait amid OFW rescues
President Rodrigo Duterte meets with Kuwait's ambassador after the Kuwaiti government protested the rescue of abused OFWs in the Middle Eastern country without proper coordination with local authorities

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines vowed to respect the sovereignty of Kuwait after the Kuwaiti government protested the Philippine embassy’s rescue of abused overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle Eastern country.

The rescue operations, which a Duterte ally said should have been “covert,” went viral through a video made public by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The Philippines relayed its message of respect for Kuwait on Monday evening, April 23, when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte received Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh in Davao City.

“During the meeting, Ambassador Saleh reiterated to us the commitment of the Kuwaiti government to protect and ensure the welfare of our more than 250,000 kababayans (countrymen) working there. For our part, we gave renewed assurances of our respect for the sovereignty of the State of Kuwait and the dignity of the Kuwaiti people,” the DFA said in a statement late Monday evening.

“We also agreed to continue to work together to address matters of mutual concern and will update the public of developments. We, however, would like to appeal for the public’s kind understanding as we ask for some diplomatic space to allow us to continue our engagement with our Kuwaiti counterparts,” the DFA added.

The DFA said it hopes “the remaining issues between the Philippines and Kuwait will be resolved.”

The meeting came after the Kuwaiti government recently summoned Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa, and handed him two protest notes.  

This was due to a viral video showing Philippine embassy personnel rescuing a distressed OFW in Kuwait. It’s the country that Duterte has slammed for abuses against OFWs, including 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis, who was found dead in a freezer there. 

Even supporters of Duterte, such as Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Deputy Administrator Arnell Ignacio, said the video should not have been made public.

Ignacio said that because the rescue constituted a crime in Kuwait, it should have been a “covert operation.” Referring to Kuwait’s laws, he added, “Kung iva-violate mo rin lang, ‘wag mo nang i-video at i-post (If you will violate it anyway, then don’t take a video and post it).” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.