Duterte orders total lifting of deployment ban to Kuwait — officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the total lifting of the deployment ban to Kuwait, the Palace said Wednesday.

"Upon recommendation of the Special Envoy to Kuwait Abdullah Mama-o, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tonight instructed (Labor Secretary) Silvestre Bello to totally lift the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

This comes after conflicting statements by government officials on the matter.

READ: Labor Secretary clarifies no lifting of deployment ban to Kuwait yet

The total lifting of the ban meant domestic workers may also be deployed to the Gulf State once again, as opposed to earlier statements that only skilled and semi-skilled workers would be allowed.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello confirmed the news to CNN Philippines, saying they will issue a department order on Thursday.

"Yes, the President just directed me to lift totally the deployment ban for Kuwait, both for the household service workers and the skilled workers, as well as professionals" Bello said.

The Labor Secretary earlier said Duterte set two conditions for the ban to be lifted: the signing of a labor deal and justice on the case of slain overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.

"Apparently the President thinks, and I think too, that the conditions have been met," Bello said.

He added the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency will also impose a policy requiring recruitment agencies to put up training centers for the workers.

READ: Government allows skilled, semi-skilled workers to Kuwait

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.

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.