By Maecy Alviar
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
The Philippines on Wednesday lifted a ban on deploying migrant workers to Kuwait, bringing a simmering diplomatic row with the Gulf state to a close.
"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tonight instructed Secretary Silvestre Bello to totally lift the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait," said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.
Duterte made the decision after newly appointed Special Envoy to Kuwait Abdullah Mama-o recommended lifting the ban, which came days after the two countries signed a memorandum of agreement to protect overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state and as a response to the sincerity and commitment of the Kuwaiti leaders.
"I had seen the sincerity and commitment of the leaders of the state of Kuwait to protect and enforce strictly the terms of the memorandum of agreement that was signed by our government and the state of Kuwait," Mama-o told ABS-CBN News.
The ban was imposed last February following a string of deaths of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
While negotiations on ending the travel ban dragged on, relations between the two countries soured further when Kuwait expelled the Philippine envoy over the release of videos of the Philippine embassy’s rescue missions of distressed Filipino workers, which were viewed by the Kuwaiti government as a breach of their sovereignty.
Labor Secretary Bello revealed that the lifting is applicable to both domestic and skilled professionals.
Some 260,000 Filipinos live and work in Kuwait, and more than half are household service workers, according to government estimates.