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The New Arab

Philippines president to visit Kuwait after worker abuse scandal

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte wants a meeting with Kuwait's Emir [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 June, 2018

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Relations between the Philippines and Kuwait soured after the corpse of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis was found in a freezer.
Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is due to visit Kuwait's Emir, after a domestic workers abuse scandal soured relations between the two countries.

Special Assistant to the Philippine President said Duterte is set to pay a visit to Kuwait but is still awaiting word from the Gulf country on the availability of Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, according to inquirer.net.

Christopher 'Bong' Go said the president will visit Kuwait after his third State of the Nation address (Sona) but "We are waiting the availability of the Amir [Sic]".

However, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte was determined to visit Kuwait but the final dates have yet to be set. "No date yet but he wants to go," Roque told inquirer.net. He added: "I think he will go after Sona. We no longer have time this June."

Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal in May, following a huge diplomatic rift, that will see Manila lift a ban on its nationals travelling to the Gulf state for work.

The ban followed the shocking discovery of the corpse of Filipina maid Joanna Demafelis in a freezer.

Her murder brought global attention about the alleged mistreatment of domestic workers in Kuwait, and condemnation from leading human rights organisations.

The crisis deepened after Kuwaiti authorities in April expelled Manila's ambassador following the emergence of video footage showing a Philippine embassy staff member helping workers escape employers they had accused of mistreatment. 

The accord signed in May said that workers will be allowed to keep their passports and mobile phones - which are often confiscated by employers. 

It stipulates that contract renewals should be approved by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, instead of being automatically renewed and employers must provide domestic workers with food, housing, clothing and health insurance.

About 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, 60 percent of them in domestic labour, according to Manila.

More than two million Filipinos are employed across the Gulf.

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