President Duterte has appealed to the estimated 260,000 Filipinos living and working in Kuwait to come home.
His call comes amid rising tensions between the Philippines and the Gulf state over the rescue of abused Filipino maids, which angered the Kuwaiti government.
“I now appeal to your sense of patriotism. Come home,” the president said in a speech before the Filipino community in Singapore today (Saturday, April 28).
The call were his first words the issue after the Kuwaiti government expelled Philippine ambassador Renato Villa and arrested a number of embassy staff.
In the same speech, the president announced his intention to pull Filipino workers out of Kuwait, citing widespread allegations that domestic workers are mistreated in the country.
Also speaking today, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines remained in talks with Kuwait, but asserted that the embassy’s rescue of distressed Filipino workers was a “rightful exercise” of the government’s duty to protect its citizens overseas.
Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III had earlier said that the was surprised with Kuwait’s decision to expel Ambassador Villa following the release of a video showing embassy officials rescuing a distressed Filipina maid in Kuwait. The footage soon went viral and caught the attention of Kuwaiti authorities.
Mr Cayetano apologised for the incident, which Kuwait viewed as a violation of its sovereignty. He also assured the Gulf state that Philippine officials would “follow their laws”.
The president recently banned the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state and started repatriating those wishing to come home following abuses and deaths of Philippine citizens there.
Among the most high-profile incidents was the case of domestic worker Joanna Demafelis whose body was found in a freezer after she had been tortured and murdered by her employers. The husband and wife have now been sentenced to death for her killing.
The young maid’s death angered the president, who said he was willing to take “drastic steps” to ensure no other Filipino worker would end up dead in the Gulf state or any other Arab nation.