PH optimistic Kuwait rift will be fixed

MANILA The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday expressed optimism that Manila's diplomatic rift with Kuwait will still be fixed, but noted it is preparing for the worst.

"We have to prepare for the worst also, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a press conference in Singapore.

Currently, there are 262,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, at least 150,000 of whom are household service workers, said the official.

As of posting, the DFA assured Filipinos that the embassy is still open for assistance request.

During the briefing, Cayetano lamented the inconsistency on Kuwait's part after he revealed Manila was initially asked to apologize over the embassy-led rescue operations in the Gulf state with an assurance the two states will move forward after the incidents.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa persona non grata from the Arab state, asking him to leave within a week.

The DFA the following day also confirmed that the Kuwait Criminal Investigation Department will press charges against some Filipino diplomats and local hires for taking part in the rescue operations.

"After the Philippines was asked to issue an apology with the assurance that the matters will be worked out, this action taken by Kuwait is deeply disturbing and very inconsistent with the assurances given to me personally by the (Kuwaiti) ambassador during our meeting on Tuesday in Taguig City," Cayetano said.

After meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Cayetano said Kuwait Ambassador Musaed Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh, the next morning on Tuesday, categorically agreed to move forward from the rescue video issue.

Cayetano also quoted the envoy as saying Villa is "welcome to stay until the end of his tour" and that the government of Kuwait "likes" Villa that no harm shall befall any diplomat of the Philippine Embassy.

"In fact, he told me, send them home, with diplomatic passports, send them home," said Cayetano.

The official acknowledged that on Monday evening when Duterte met Althwaik, the latter has not gotten instruction from Kuwait yet.

"But the next day, when we met, he said 'very positive, I've talked to my home (office) this is what we agreed and we agreed on these things,'" Cayetano said.

"I wouldn't have gone on a press conference if I haven't gotten those assurances from him," he added.

With Ambassador Villa expected to leave Kuwait anytime soon, the DFA is now working on the assignment of a senior officer as charge d'affaires in Kuwait.

Of the 10 members of the rapid response team the DFA sent to Kuwait, seven have come home, while three have warrants of arrest against them.

Cayetano said the embassy has been instructed to invoke diplomatic immunity for them to be allowed to come home.

Meanwhile, DFA has assured legal assistance to the four drivers hired for a rented van used in the "rescue" operations. They are currently detained for alleged involvement. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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