Labor Secretary clarifies no lifting of deployment ban to Kuwait yet

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello clarified he just recommended the partial lifting of the deployment ban to Kuwait to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I told the President that we can lift the ban only with respect to our skilled workers and professionals," Bello said in a statement released Wednesday.

This comes after Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque revealed Tuesday the ban had already been lifted for skilled and semi-skilled workers.

"Kung hindi po ako nagkakamali, na-i-lift na po ngayon ni Secretary Bello 'yan," Roque said on CNN Philippines Balitaan.

[Translation: If I'm not mistaken, the ban was lifted by Secretary Silvestre Bello.]

Talks of lifting the ban followed the signing of a labor deal between the Philippines and Kuwait, protecting the rights of Filipino workers in the Gulf State.

The Labor Secretary, however, said they still have to study the effects of the labor deal to the workers before lifting the ban on domestic helpers.

"As to the household service workers, I said in my report that we will have to wait and see the effect of the agreement that we signed on the protection of our household service workers," Bello said.

Duterte imposed the ban in February in the wake of reports Filipino workers were abused and even died in the Gulf state, including household helper Joanna Demafelis whose body was found inside a freezer of her employers' residence.

Kuwait is a top destination for overseas Filipino workers, with some 262,000 Filipinos working there as of 2018. Of this number, 170,000 are household service workers.

As of February 2018, remittances from Kuwait amounted to P5.5 billion, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. In 2017, a total of P42 billion was remitted from the Gulf State.