THE Department of Labor and Employment is eyeing Russia as an alternative destination for Filipino workers as more abuses against them are being reported in the Middle East, particularly in Kuwait.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the department has started looking into the labor regulations and policies in Russia in preparation for the deployment of Filipino workers there.
He said Russia has a huge demand for professionals, house help and construction workers.
There are currently some 4,000 Filipino workers in Russia’s construction, household service and hotel industries.
Bello has created a technical working group to conduct discussions and meetings with Russian officials leading to the formulation of an agreement for possible deployment to Russia.
“Negotiations with Russian Federation are ongoing and Russia is one of our alternative markets for our Filipino workers who still wish to be deployed overseas. There is a demand for construction and household service workers in Russia,” Bello said.
The technical working group has been tasked to establish a program of activities for a series of policy consultations between the Philippines and Russia to further discuss policies for the protection and welfare of Filipino workers.
Senator JV Ejercito, meanwhile, said he hoped the most recent wrinkle in Philippine-Kuwaiti relations will not affect the amnesty extension for overstaying Filipino workers there.
“I have said before that while the rescue mission may have violated diplomatic protocols, they were done to save the lives and protect the welfare of Filipinos abroad which, after all, is the ultimate goal of our foreign policy,” said Ejercito.
“We value our friendship with other nations but this has to be balanced with our ultimate goal—protect the well-being of Filipinos overseas,” he added.
Senator Francis Escudero said he was glad to see Philippine Embassy officials being aggressive in defending the rights of abused Filipino workers.
“I hope that the apology notwithstanding, they will still be aggressive in protecting, defending and rescuing troubled OFWs. Filipinos living or working abroad have to feel safe and confident in the fact that their governemnt will protect and defend them right or wrong,” he said.
Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa on Wednesday (Manila time) echoed the apology extended by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano after videos emerged of his staff helping Filipinos flee from allegedly abusive employers in Kuwait, adding fuel to a simmering diplomatic row between the two nations sparked by the murder of a Filipino maid.
In a press conference in Kuwait, Villa explained that the embassy never intended to “offend the sensitivities of the Kuwaiti government and the Kuwaiti people”.
“I join our secretary of Foreign Affairs in extending this apology,” said Villa in a press conference at the embassy in Kuwait, which was televised in the local media outlet ANC.
Villa also said it was never the intention of the embassy to violate Kuwait’s law.
“It was also never the intention of the embassy to violate the sovereignty and the internal processes of the State of Kuwait in the few occasions that we were compelled to respond in the urgent calls for assistance from our people,” he added.