Philippines `Deeply Disturbed' After Kuwait Expels Manila Envoy

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(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines has described Kuwait’s decision on Wednesday to expel Manila’s envoy to Kuwait and also recall its own ambassador to the Philippines as “deeply disturbing.”

Kuwait said the Philippines had violated diplomatic rules by smuggling domestic workers outside the country.

In a statement on Thursday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it had served a diplomatic note to the Embassy of Kuwait conveying its strong surprise and great displeasure over the declaration of Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa as persona non grata.

“We would like to reiterate the statement of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs that the palace is equally disturbed by the latest developments involving the recall of our ambassador to Kuwait,” Harry Roque, official spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, told reporters.

Relations between the Philippines and Kuwait, where more than 250,000 Filipinos work, have been rocky since the body of Filipina domestic worker Joanna Demafelis was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in February. Demafelis’ body bore signs of torture.

While the Philippines was forced to apologize earlier this week after Ambassador Villa made public statements angering Kuwaiti authorities, Roque said the government was “convinced that all kinks” in the bilateral relationship had been ironed out.

“We hope that this development will not lead to the further worsening of bilateral ties between the two countries,” Roque added.

President Duterte said earlier this month that he planned to travel to Kuwait for the signing of an agreement that would help to protect Filipino workers in the future.

Filipino workers sent home more than $806 million from Kuwait last year, a tenth of the $7.8 billion in Filipino remittances from the Middle East, according to central bank data.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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