IATF OKs repatriation of remains of overseas Filipinos who died of COVID-19

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 02:32 PM

MANILA - The government's inter-agency task force (IATF) on pandemic response has approved the repatriation of the remains of overseas Filipinos who died of COVID-19, Malacañang said Friday.

The IATF backed the decision of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring home the remains of Filipinos who died of COVID-19 overseas.
 
"Sinuportahan po ng IATF and DOLE at DFA sa desisyon na pauwiin ang lahat ng OFW na namatay dahil sa COVID-19," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

(The IATF supported DOLE and DFA in their decision to bring home the remains of all OFWs who died of COVID-19.)

The government initially rejected repatriation of COVID-19 remains due to the "danger of transmission."

But families of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia who died of COVID-19 decried this, prompting Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to appeal for the repatriation.

There are 257 Filipino corpses in Saudi Arabia that need to be repatriated. Of these remains, 107 were COVID-19 patients while the rest died of natural causes, Bello said.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia's King Salman gave the Philippines 72 hours to retrieve the OFWs' bodies.

Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde earlier said international health regulators require all persons who died from infectious diseases to be cremated before being transported to other countries. In Saudi Arabia, however, cremation is not allowed. 

As of June 25, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it has recorded 513 Filipinos who died of COVID-19 overseas.