Protecting our OFWs
Dateline: Las Vegas, Nevada
THE whole country was shocked in February with the news that the body of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Kuwait, Joanna Demafelis, was found in a freezer in Kuwait. Demafelis was reported missing for over a year. The incident prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to ban the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. Repatriation was ordered by the Philippines for those who would like to come home. The ban is still in force.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is approximately 260,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait, about 170,000 of whom are household helpers. A Memorandum of Understanding was supposed to be signed between the two governments to protect OFW due to the reported abuse and deaths of OFW.
Last week, the country was again shocked when the Kuwait Government declared Renato Villa, the Philippine Consul in that country, as persona non grata, meaning, the Consul will be expelled from Kuwait. The order also came with the arrest of three Filipino diplomats. The decision was made with the release of a video showing the Philippine embassy officials rescuing distressed Filipino workers in Kuwait. Kuwait alleged that the embassy’s action violated its law and sovereignty.
All the diplomats of a country have the responsibility to protect its citizens residing, working or visiting the country where he is on tour of duty. It is only incumbent upon the Filipino diplomats in Kuwait to protect all Filipinos in that country, lest they be blamed and cursed by all the Filipinos for not being able to protect Filipino citizens. Repatriating the OFW’s would mean unemployment for most of them. We hope and pray that everything will be resolved amicably between the two countries.
The first time I visited Las Vegas in 1993, I was awe-struck by its beauty and splendor. It was still the same in Summer of 2014, the last time I was here when our family, with my 96-year old mother, went on a road trip for almost a month from West Coast (Los Angeles) to the East Coast (New York and Canada). I remember that during my first visit, I tagged Vegas as the city that never sleeps, next to New York. The city was so beautiful both by daytime and nighttime. All hotels were brightly lighted with rainbow colors, one would think the hotel owners are majority stockholders of the power provider. In the same manner, all the streets were fully lighted as evening falls, it was as bright as daytime. Thousands of people were walking and strolling the streets 24/7; there was traffic of people along the sidewalks, and vehicles on the streets, especially in Las Vegas Strip. In one of my flights from New York to L.A., the pilot announced that if we would look down from our window, we could see Vegas. True enough, the fully lighted city can be seen from the plane’s height. Not everybody who went to this city play at the casino; they went hotel hopping with their children, to see the famous attraction each hotel offered. There was no problem in parking since every hotel offers free parking. There were free American buffet breakfast while buffet lunch and dinner were cheap.
Fast forward. There is great difference today. Vegas might either have been hit by the crunch of economic crisis, or it wants more profit at lesser business expense? Gone are the brightly-lit hotels. The attractions were also reduced to a limited time, some even stopped them. Hotels are not as attractive as they used to be. Streets were either dark or poorly-lit, it is scary to walk in the evening, not many people stroll anymore in the evening. Hotels converted American breakfast to continental. Lunch and dinner buffet now cost a fortune. Hotel hopping is expensive, hotels charge parking fee now, first hour for free but the next hour is $9.00 plus a dollar after every 2 hours. What is more, there are many vacant parking spaces in the hotels.
At the rate things are going, is Vegas driving away its customers (the high roller individuals) and tourists? Well, only the Las Vegas Government (which collects taxes from the businessmen) and the businessmen would know if they made the right business decision.
Congratulations to Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David and the clergy of the Diocese of Kalookan for their successful pilgrimage and retreat at the Holy Land. The retreat was very memorable and fruitful considering that Bishop Ambo is a Biblical Scholar and can tell and explain every event and step of the way where Jesus and the Holy Family walked. It has been my dream to have Bishop Ambo as the Chaplain of my Holy Land Pilgrimage.