Kuwait declares PH ambassador persona non-grata, tells him to go home

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Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa (File)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — The Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday it will ask Kuwait's ambassador to explain the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry's "deeply disturbing" decision to declare Philippine Ambassador Renato O. Villa unacceptable, giving him a week to return to Manila.

"The action taken by the Kuwaiti Government is deeply disturbing as it is inconsistent with the assurances given by Kuwaiti Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh during his meeting with (Foreign) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in Manila on Tuesday," the DFA said in a statement.

It said the DFA will ask Saleh "to explain first thing tomorrow why the Kuwaiti Government reneged on the agreement reached with him to work together to move bilateral relations between the Philippines and Kuwait forward."

Kuwait's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday announced it has declared Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa persona non-grata and has asked him to return home in a week, the state-run Kuwait News Agency reported.

KUNA said the Foreign Ministry, which is also recalling the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines, said its action against the top Filipino diplomat was in retaliation for the "undiplomatic acts" by Philippine embassy staff, who encouraged Filipino domestic workers to flee from their employers' households.

The report quoted the ministry's official statement as rejecting and condemning the Philippine embassy's 'flagrant and grave breach of rules and regulations that govern diplomatic action." It said the Philippines dispatched reinforcements to the embassy, comprising seven teams, "on the pretext of rescuing female housemaids in Kuwait."

Villa was summoned twice, KUNA's report said, to receive Kuwait's complaints about the "dangerous transgressions" and the request for the embassy to provide within three months the names of Filipinos who had committed the offense of smuggling Filipina workers. But it said the duration passed without any response from the embassy.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters Tuesday there was no threat to have Villa expelled.

"There was no explicit request for him to be recalled from the Kuwaiti government. There is no threat to have him expelled. They just want all of this to be clarified," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano and other Cabinet officials met with Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh in Davao late Monday, during which officials assured him that the Philippines respects Kuwait's sovereignty.

Apology made

A video showing the rescue mission went viral, to which Cayetano apologized on Tuesday.

"I apologize to my counterpart, and we apologize to the Kuwaiti government, Kuwaiti people, the leaders of Kuwait, if they were offended by some actions taken by the Philippine embassy in Kuwait," he said.

He said the Kuwaiti government "has accepted our explanation."

Also on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said both countries have agreed to move forward after the rescue mission.

The rescue mission was not coordinated with Kuwaiti officials, prompting the Kuwaiti government to summon the Philippine ambassador and explain the consular staff's rescue effort.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos, Rex Remitio, and Pia Garcia contributed to this report.