MANILA, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wants to completely ban Filipinos from working in Kuwait, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said on Sunday, adding the Philippine leader wants "to send a strong message" to the Gulf state.
"That is the directive of the president, and by tomorrow, I'm going to issue the order," Bello told local radio DZMM in an interview.
Bello said the government will take back the distressed Filipino workers in Kuwait. However, those who wish to stay in Kuwait will be allowed to do so.
Bello also said that the Philippines may reconsider its decision if Kuwait signs a memorandum of agreement guaranteeing the protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The deployment ban may also extend to other Arab nations if a pending review finds that the condition of OFWs there is poor and not protected, the secretary added.
The Philippines ordered on Jan. 19 the suspension of workers to Kuwait as the government investigates the case of seven Filipinos working in the Gulf state.
The government said it had issued the ban because the Kuwaiti government failed to protect Filipinos from abuse.
Duterte told a news conference on Friday that the ban stays, and that he is prepared to take serious steps to preserve the lives of Filipino workers amid the deaths of domestic workers in Kuwait.
Duterte lamented the death of a Filipino woman working as a help in Kuwait whose body was recently found inside a freezer. The woman's body bore torture marks and indications that she was strangled to death.
Duterte also implored the Kuwaiti government and to the Arab nations to protect the Filipinos working in their countries.
Duterte said he would ask two airlines to provide transportation for OFWs who want to come home.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said there are about 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, mostly working as domestic helpers.
The Philippines is one of the primary sources of domestic workers abroad, including Singapore, China's Hong Kong and Middle East countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Many of the workers reportedly suffer sexual abuse from their male employers. The abuse of many Filipino women workers are often Duterte's topic in his speeches.
The Philippines is heavily reliant on the remittances these workers send home, and remittances keep the economy afloat.