Philippine economy

Philippines apologizes to Kuwait for ’emergency’ OFW rescues

Paterno Esmaquel II
Philippines apologizes to Kuwait for ’emergency’ OFW rescues
(UPDATED) 'This was all done in the spirit of emergency action to protect Filipinos,' says Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano after the OFW rescues angered Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippines apologized to Kuwait on Tuesday, April 24, for rescuing abused overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle Eastern country through an operation that angered the Kuwaiti government. 

In an interview with reporters, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano explained that the rescues were done “in the spirit of emergency action to protect Filipinos.”

Saying now that these were done “in the spirit of emergency action” is different from Cayetano’s statement on Monday, April 23, that the Philippines coordinates with Kuwait for all its rescue operations there.

Cayetano said: “When we receive a call and they say, ‘I’ll be killed’ or ‘I’m in danger,’ action has to be swift, and action has to be given right away. So it is in this spirit that I apologize to my counterpart, and we apologize to the Kuwaiti government, Kuwaiti people, and the leaders of Kuwait, if they were offended by some actions taken by the Philippine embassy in Kuwait.”

“But we have explained to their ambassador, and their ambassador has accepted this explanation, but of course we will also send it to our counterparts, that this was all done in the spirit of emergency action to protect Filipinos,” he added.

Following Kuwait’s protest, the Philippines vowed “respect for the sovereignty of the State of Kuwait and the dignity of the Kuwaiti people,” as President Rodrigo Duterte met with Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh.

In a statement on Tuesday, Malacañang said the Philippines and Kuwait agreed on the following:

  • “To ensure immediate action by Kuwaiti authorities on pending requests for assistance from distressed Filipino workers”
  • “To facilitate the repatriation of the more than 600 Filipinos currently staying in shelters of the Philippine embassy”
  • “To assure justice for pending and future cases filed by Filipinos who are victims of serious abuse and other offenses”
  • “To assure proper and humane treatment of Filipinos who may be taken into custody after the April 22 amnesty deadline and to repatriate them immediately with the assistance of the Philippine embassy”

Kuwait earlier summoned Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa over the OFW rescues, which went viral through a video released by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.  

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

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.