MANILA - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Thursday to impose a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait because of sexual abuses that have forced some Filipino women to kill themselves.
Duterte said he wanted Filipino officials to hold talks with Kuwait and tell them the abuses are unacceptable and that the Philippines may ban Filipinos from working there unless the abuses end.
"I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders but they have to do something about this because many Filipinas will commit suicide," Duterte said in a speech at the launching of a Manila bank for Filipinos abroad.
"We have lost about four Filipino women in the last few months. It's always in Kuwait," Duterte said, without providing details.
Discussing the problem with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano recently, Duterte said: "My advice is, we talk to them, state the truth and just tell them that it's not acceptable anymore. Either we impose a total ban or we can have this corrected."
More than 250,000 Filipinos work in the Arab nation. The Philippines is a major labor exporter with about a tenth of more than 100 million Filipinos working abroad. The earnings they send home have bolstered the Philippine economy for decades.
Workers endure the threat of abuses, including rape, in some countries to be able to send money home and keep their children in school. But with their parents working abroad, some children end up being sexually abused or become drug addicts, Duterte said, explaining his anger over drug dealers.
Thousands of mostly poor suspects have been killed in Duterte's brutal crackdown on illegal drugs since he took power in 2016, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.
Duterte has denied he condones extrajudicial killings, although he has openly threatened drug dealers with death for years.
He credits his harsh approach to crime for the improvement in law and order in southern Davao city, where he served as mayor for more than two decades before becoming president.
He said about 600 criminals were killed during his time as mayor, but added "It was all legit."
"I never ordered the killing of anybody kneeling in front of me," he said. "You have to kill to make your city peaceful."