Department of Migrant Workers

DMW gives financial, livelihood aid to Filipinos affected by Kuwait ban

Michelle Abad

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DMW gives financial, livelihood aid to Filipinos affected by Kuwait ban

ASSISTANCE. Migrant Workers Undersecretary Hans Cacdac talks to workers affected by Kuwait's suspension of new entry visas to Filipinos, at the Department of Migrant Workers in Mandaluyong City, on May 25, 2023.

Michelle Abad/Rappler

The Department of Migrant Workers coordinates with recruitment agencies to find job orders that match the skills of the workers who were meant to fly to Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) has begun distributing financial and livelihood assistance to Filipinos whose jobs were affected when Kuwait suspended the issuance of entry visas to all non-resident Filipinos.

On Thursday, May 25, DMW officials distributed P30,000 each to 32 supposed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Kuwait. They also conducted “job-matching” to help the Filipinos find similar work in other countries.

Kuwait imposed the ban on May 10, a move seen by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as intended to apply “diplomatic pressure” on the Philippines for suspending the deployment of first-time domestic workers bound for Kuwait in February. The Philippines’ partial ban came in the wake of the brutal killing of Filipino domestic worker Jullebee Ranara allegedly at the hands of her employer’s son.

There were over 800 workers who were issued overseas employment contracts and ready to begin work in Kuwait when the ban was imposed. These included waiters and waitresses, mall vendors, sales associates, and nurses.

DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac said that the first P30,000 given on Thursday may be the first of future dole-outs, but that the job-matching was “more important” as it was viewed as more sustainable.

Assistant Secretary Francis de Guzman said the job-matching involved coordination with the workers’ recruitment agencies, or other recruitment agencies to find similar job orders in other countries.

“The beauty of department-facilitated job-matching would be that, for as long as we can match them to agencies that will not ask for new placement fees…. That’s where we’ll bring them,” De Guzman said in a mix of English and Filipino.

It would still be up to the worker whether they wanted to take the jobs. Some expenses will no longer require duplication such as medical certificates that are still valid. De Guzman said that expenses would be “minimal” and may be limited to visas or country-specific requirements.

Tayo ay nandito para bigyan daan ‘yung mayroon silang options. Mayroon silang possible job opportunities na puwede ring tingnan. So kung doon sa mag-a-avail nito, at least mayroon silang puwedeng maisagawang job application para mayroon silang options at pag-asa,” said Cacdac.

(We are here to give way to options. They have possible job opportunities that they can look at. So for those who will avail this, at least they have a job application to accomplish and they have options and hope.)

Cacdac said that there was no assurance yet on whether Kuwait’s suspension would be lifted. “We are continuing to hope that labor diplomacy remains an option,” he said.

Uncertainty

Kia, not her real name, is stuck with the choice to wait for the Kuwait ban to be lifted or seek other opportunities. A sales lady in a mall for six years, Kia hopes to find work abroad to finish paying off a house in the Philippines. The 26-year-old resigned in March and was ready to leave for Kuwait, also to work in sales in the Gulf state.

May hinuhulugan akong bahay. So masyadong big challenge sa akin kasi wala naman akong pinagkukunan. Kaya…sana makaalis na, kaso dahil nga sa nangyari. Kailangan naming mag-apply or mag-antay doon sa employer namin,” she said on Thursday after receiving her P30,000 aid.

(I’m paying for a house. So it’s a very big challenge for me because I don’t have income. That’s why I was hoping to leave already, but the [ban] happened. We need to apply for other opportunities or wait for our employers.)

Kia said that sales associates in Kuwait earn around P27,000 to P30,000, compared to salaries in the Philippines that offer around P17,000 for the same kind of work. The job she was accepted into also had accommodation, food allowance, and transportation.

Okay naman din ‘yung benefits kaya nga lang, siyempre sa taas na bilihin at marami na rin tayo mas lumalaki na ‘yung mga obligation kaya mas ninanais na rin naming maging OFW para kahit paano may maipon ka. Para kahit man lang two years, pag-uwi mo dito, puwede ka nang mag-business kasi kung tutuusin talaga mas malaki talaga ang pera ng ibang bansa kaysa sa offer dito,” she said.

(The benefits [of my job here] were okay, but of course, with rising prices and obligations, we still want to be OFWs so that we can save. So that even if you’re only abroad for two years, when you come home, you can start up a business because you will really earn more abroad than here.)

The DFA earlier said that justice for Ranara’s killing was a non-negotiable for the lifting of the partial ban from the Philippine side. Cacdac said that the next hearing for Ranara’s case in Kuwait was scheduled at the end of May.

Sa kumpirmasyon na nakalap namin, after nitong hearing na ito, ay posibleng makakaasa na tayo kung ano ‘yung resulta, kung ano ang decision from the Kuwaiti court. So tayo ay nagaantabay at umaasa na mahuhustisya,” said Cacdac.

(Based on the confirmation we got, after this hearing, it might be possible for us to expect the verdict from the Kuwaiti court. So we are waiting and hoping for justice.) – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.