MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Kuwaiti government freed 4 Filipino drivers arrested after the controversial rescues of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday, May 9.
“Doon po sa apat na driver, napalaya na po ‘yan. Pero hindi po uuwi ang apat na drivers na ‘yan kasi taga-Kuwait po sila. Pero ang importante po wala na silang mga kaso,” Roque said in a press conference in Kuwait.
(On the 4 drivers, they were already freed. But the 4 drivers will not come home because they live in Kuwait. But what’s important is that they no longer have a case.)
On the 3 Filipino diplomats who have arrest warrants in Kuwait, Roque said the Philippine government is expecting good news in the next few days.
Roque also said that by May 11, the Philippines hopes to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Kuwait for the better treatment of OFWs there.
Roque disclosed these after he and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III flew to Kuwait to seek “normalization of ties” with the Middle Eastern country.
Malacañang said Roque left for Kuwait on Tuesday evening, May 8, “upon the directive” of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Meeting with Kuwaiti officials
Roque and Bello met with Kuwaiti officials, as they were accompanied by former labor secretary Marianito Roque, labor attaché Rustico dela Fuente, and deputy chief of mission to Kuwait Mohd Noordin Lomondot.
The Philippine contingent met with officials from Kuwait’s interior ministry. Both parties “look forward to the normalization of ties.”
Malacañang said a memorandum of agreement is expected to be signed after their meeting.
On top of this, Kuwait “agreed to create a special unit within the police that the Philippine embassy can liaison with regarding complaints of Filipino workers.”
This special unit will be available for 24 hours, with a special 24-hour number “that Filipino workers can call for assistance.”
150 undocumented OFWs flying home
Malacañang said the meeting also “guaranteed that all remaining undocumented Filipinos…except those with pending cases, will be allowed to go home.”
Malacañang said at least 150 of these undocumented Filipinos “will be joining the Philippine officials in returning to the Philippines.”
The meeting comes after Kuwait expelled Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa due to the allegedly illegal rescues of OFWs in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government had also protested a video of these OFW rescues, which came from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs itself.
This crisis brought relations between the Philippines and Kuwait to their lowest point in years, with the welfare of 262,000 OFWs at stake. (READ: Cayetano denies Kuwait OFW video was for politicking)