MANILA - The labor department will bring home 301 deceased Filipino migrant workers, including those who died from COVID-19, from Saudi Arabia, its chief said Sunday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said the agency is arranging flights for the repatriation of the overseas Filipino workers' remains before Saudi's deadline set on July 4.
"Meron na kaming ini-schedule na iuuwi sila - yung may COVID at natural death. Iuuwi natin sila probably, kasi binigyan tayo ng taning ng Saudi government hanggang July 4; hopefully, pwede namin kunin sila before July 4," Bello told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(We have scheduled their return - those who died from COVID-19 and natural causes of death. We're going to repatriate them probably, because the Saudi government gave us until July 4; hopefully, we can get them before July 4.)
Bello said 145 of those who died in Saudi Arabia are due to COVID-19. He earlier said government would opt to bury the bodies of Filipinos who died from COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia.
"Naka-ready na po kami. Si (Transportation) Secretary (Arthur) Tugade promised me two air cargo planes na susundo sa ating mga minamahal na OFWs," he said.
(We are ready. Secretary Tugado promised me two air cargo planes that will fetch our beloved OFWs.)
As of Saturday,the government has also brought home some 63,000 OFWs whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic, according to Bello.
Some 16,000 more have completed their requirements and are expected to return to the Philippines, he added.
The agency is also providing food and financial assistance to stranded OFWs, Bello said.
OFWs have received $200 while those who were repatriated were given P10,000, he added.
"Binibigyan namin ng pagkain yan. It is our obligation to provide food, toiletries and medicine, including face masks… Kasama namin sa pag-distribute yung Philippine community. Hindi namin pinapabayaan ang ating OFWs. Meron din kung minsan, may pasaway na trabahante d'yan sa office namin," he said.
(We give them food. It is our obligation to provide food, toiletries and medicine, including face masks… The Philippine community helps us in distributing these. We are not neglecting our OFWs. Although sometimes some of our agency's workers err.)
"By and large, we are doing everything na hindi naman po mahihirapan ang ating mga kababayan (to make sure our fellow countrymen are not inconvenienced)."
Bello made the remark as some OFWs in Saudi Arabia have reportedly been scouring trash for food.