Strengthen OFW protection in bilateral labor agreements – lawmaker

2024 June 26

OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino (Photo courtesy of OFW Party-list)

MANILA – A party-list lawmaker said Wednesday the Philippines’ bilateral labor agreements (BLAs) with other countries must have teeth to protect the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa Magsino made the statement after the Kuwaiti government lifted its year-long ban on the issuance of entry visas and worker visas for OFWs.

“Our bilateral labor agreements envelop the policy support for our OFWs while they are abroad. It must have decisiveness and grit to make sure there is no space for abuses against our OFWs. If there are some abuses, the agreements should provide for serious consequences that would deter foreign employers from committing a similar transgression,” Magsino said in a statement.

For the deployment of domestic workers, Kuwaiti authorities agreed to the proposal of the Philippines to limit the deployment to those with work experience, similar to the deferment in February 2023.

Magsino said while the lifting of the deployment ban would boost the welfare of the families of OFWs and the Philippines, stronger policies on worker protection must be in place before deployment resumes.

She thanked the Kuwaiti government, Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Foreign Affairs, and the hardworking embassy and Migrant Workers Office officials in Kuwait for “making sure that the Filipinos will have available livelihood in Kuwait and will still be part of host country’s development.”

She said BLAs should include explicit provisions relating to social security, equality of treatment, repatriation, and most importantly, protocols governing the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses committed against OFWs, and legal remedies available to them and their families for redress of grievance and to secure justice.

Due to the murder case of OFW Jullebee Ranara, then Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople limited the deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait to only those with previous work experience, banning first-timers.

In May 2023, Kuwait suspended all new visas for Philippine passport holders.

With this development, Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo Cacdac said a two-week to one-month adjustment period is needed to set the relevant issuances and work on the regulations on the resumption of deployment of newly hired and skilled workers to Kuwait.

To further ensure OFW protection, Cacdac said the Philippines and Kuwait also agreed to establish a joint technical working committee to periodically meet to resolve labor-related issues and other concerns. 

Filane Mikee Cervantes (PNA)