The labor department is finalizing arrangements for the formal signing of an agreement with Kuwait on the protection of Filipino workers, mostly household service workers, deployed in the Gulf state.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the signing may take place in the first week of April, while the venue is yet to be determined.

This following the conclusion Friday night of formal talks between a top level delegation of Kuwaiti officials and their Philippine counterparts on the provisions of the proposed agreement which will govern the deployment, employment and treatment of Filipino workers while staying in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti officials, led by Ambassador Ganhim Saqer Ali Shaheen Al Ganhim, arrived Thursday to negotiate the terms of the agreement weeks after the government decided on a total ban on deployment of workers to the Arab state on the issue of rampant abuses and the death of Joana Demafelis who was found stuck in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait city in early February.

The Philippine panel in the two-day talks was headed by Labor Undersecretary Claro Arellano, Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Administrator Bernard Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa.

Among the major provisions of the agreement include the prohibition of the surrender of Filipino passport to Kuwaiti employers, the binding effect of the Philippine-crafted employment contract, the guaranteed payment of minimum monthly net pay of $400 paid through the bank, and non-confiscation of mobile phones and other communication gadgets.

Bello said the talks were stormy on some critical concerns and hit a snag on the last day on the issue of contract and passport.

“There was an impasse on two critical concerns as the talks were about to conclude. But we saw a breakthrough in early evening, and the Kuwaiti panel finally gave in at the last minute,” he said.

Bello also said the talks were a success, but added that its formal signing would not automatically result to the lifting of the government deployment ban.

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