MANILA: The Philippines on Thursday partially lifted its ban on workers moving to Kuwait, allowing Filipino professionals to seek employment in the Gulf state.
“The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration came up with a resolution lifting the ban partially,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello told reporters shortly after a meeting with the administration.
According to the secretary, professionals, as well as skilled and semi-skilled workers, are now exempted from the ban. Household workers remain barred from pursuing jobs in Kuwait.
Bello cited an agreement on the standard employment contract for overseas Filipino workers as a reason for lifting the block.
“This is a measure that would provide effective and sufficient protection to our overseas workers,” he said.
The secretary said the Kuwaiti government had agreed to include in the contracts provisions that prohibit employers from keeping the worker’s personal identity documents and allow the workers to have their cellphones for use when not on duty.
The Filipino workers are also entitled to one day off a week with pay and must not work more than 12 hours a day. They should also be given breaks, at least eight hours of sleep and receive health care coverage.
Employers are also prohibited from assigning a domestic worker to work outside of Kuwait or transferring to another employer without written consent.
“If this occurs without the agreement of the worker, they will be returned to the Philippines at the expense of the employer,” Bello said.
The new provisions take effect retroactively.
A total deployment ban was imposed by the Philippine government on Jan. 15 following the killing of 26-year-old Filipino worker Jeanelyn Villavende by her employer.
The total ban, Bello said, was triggered by an alleged attempt by Kuwaiti authorities to cover up the true cause of death of Villavende, whose autopsy revealed that she was raped before her employers battered her to death.
On Wednesday, Bello said no further easing of the ban was considered unless the Kuwaiti government follows up on the cases of Villavende, two other Filipino workers who were reportedly brutally killed by their employers and another who was raped upon arrival.
“In the case of Villavende, I wanted some validation of their claim that they (accused employers) are formally charged and they are behind bars. We have to be contented who have been charged and what is the nature of the charges,” Bello said.