Cayetano: Talks with Kuwait 'positive' as 61 Filipino workers return to PH

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano speaks on calls for his resignation after welcoming Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa back to the country.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 6) —  Kuwait sent back to the Philippines 61 overstaying Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in what Foreign Secretary Peter Cayetano described as a "breakthrough" in bilateral  relations.

 "This is a very good gesture, positive step forward. As you know, in our official communications with them, we raised the concern of the 600 to 800 that are still in the shelters, na somehow hindi umabot sa amnesty  [who somehow were not included in the amnesty]. So this is the first batch of 61," Cayetano said.

All the OFWs who arrived Saturday night will each receive P5,000 in financial assistance.

Cayetano said there are still some 600 to 800 OFWs in shelters in Kuwait waiting to return home.  Some 120 others had complaints and asking for police assistance.

He clarified that the 61 who arrived and those staying in the shelters were not covered by Kuwait's amnesty program for overstaying foreigners which expired on April 22.  They delayed their return home because of  complications with their visas and other travel documents.

READ: Kuwait extends amnesty program till April 22

Cayetano assured that the follow-up protocols are being ironed out with the Kuwaiti government to assist the remaining OFWs in the Gulf state. 

He added the Philippines meant no disrespect toward Kuwait or its laws, and remained grateful that the overwhelming majority of  OFWs in the Gulf state are "very, very well taken care of."

He added, however, that it was still the country's obligation to take care of Filipino workers who were being maltreated.

He stressed that the DFA was careful to avoid provoking ill will from their Kuwaiti counterparts, and that the two countries were moving towards a "positive direction."

"We received word from them officially na inaasikaso na rin yung iba then yung 120 na humihingi din ng tulong inaasikaso na rin so ang kailangan maayos 'yung protocols natin with them para hindi maulit 'yung, so that there will be no offense and there will be no ill feeling when the OFW needs help," Cayetano added.

[Translation: We received word from them officially  with them that they are accommodating the others and the 120 who are asking for assistance, are being taken cared of as well, so we need to fix the protocols so we won't repeat, so that there will be no offense and there will be no ill feeling when the OFW needs help.]

Cayetano said the proposed memorandum of understanding with Kuwait on the protection of OFWs remained on hold.

READ: PH-Kuwait worker protection deal 'up in the air' - Roque

"Ang instructions nga ni Presidente, ayusin muna 'to bago pumirma. Kasi kay Pangulo, hindi sapat that 99.9 percent ng OFWs ay sakop, gusto niya 100 percent; ibig sabihin, maprotektahan talaga 'yung 100 percent," he stated.

[Translation: The instruction of the President is to fix this before we sign. Because to the President, it is not enough that 99.9 percent of OFWs are covered, he wants 100 percent; meaning the 100 percent will really be protected.]

RELATED: Cayetano: Deployment ban to Kuwait will be lifted only if Filipinos are 100% protected

The secretary added, "there are other concerns that are there, and inaasikaso na ngayon. So pati 'yung tinanong niyo kanina na sabi ko medyo sensitive, inaasikaso na rin lahat 'yun, and I'll update you in a few days. But positive na 'yung developments, and maganda na 'yung direction ng usapan."

[Translation: Now, there are other concerns that are there, and are being fixed, so even the sensitive issues you asked a while ago we're fixing them, and I'll update you in a few days. But the developments are positive and the direction of discussions is good.]

Last February 13, the first group of OFWs returned to the country as part of the government's mass repatriation program. Around 400 Filipinos were successfully repatriated.

READ: Hundreds of OFWs from Kuwait back in PH