Expelled Philippine ambassador to Kuwait arrives in Manila

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Expelled Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday evening, May 2, a week after the Kuwaiti government ordered him to leave due to the allegedly illegal rescues of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) there.

Villa arrived at around 10:40 pm on Wednesday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City.

The ambassador was received by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Speaking to reporters at NAIA after his arrival, Villa said he considers it a "great honor" to have served as a diplomat in Kuwait for almost 3 years.

"I will always have fond memories of Kuwait and its hospitable people.... I sincerely hope that we can all move forward and work together with Kuwait," Villa said.

Cayetano thanked Villa, and said the Philippines is taking "multiple routes" to resolve the diplomatic row with Kuwait.

"As we continue our engagement with our Kuwaiti counterparts, we would like to ask for the kind patience and understanding of our people, most especially those who have been affected by the recent misunderstanding," said Cayetano.

"We assure everyone that the Philippine government will remain guided by the national interest in seeking solutions that would be beneficial to all concerned," he added.

"In other words po, kalma lang po. Part talaga po 'to ng misunderstanding, pero meron tayong objectives, at 'yung objective dito, 'yung welfare ng ating overseas Filipinos."

(In other words, keep calm. This is really part of the misunderstanding, but we have objectives, and our objective here is to protect the welfare of our overseas Filipinos.)

Villa and Cayetano will proceed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) headquarters for a debriefing later in the evening, said DFA Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy Elmer Cato.

Kuwait said on April 25 that it has expelled Villa and declared him persona non grata due to "undiplomatic acts by Philippine embassy staff."

Kuwait accused the Philippines of violating its sovereignty by conducting OFW rescue operations without coordinating with the Kuwaiti police.

What further angered Kuwait was that the DFA released videos of the OFW rescues, an act viewed as embarrassing to the Gulf country.

On April 26, the Philippines in a diplomatic note conveyed its "strong surprise and great displeasure" after Kuwait declared Villa as persona non grata. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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