MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday said 88 remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will arrive in two batches beginning Friday.
“By Friday, we will be bringing in 44 kasi yun lang ang kaya ng eroplano. Pero sa Sunday, another 44. At every other day, mag-uuwi na kami ng mga labi ng ating mga nasawing OFW,” Bello said in an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo.
(By Friday, we will be bringing in 44 because the plane can only accommodate that number. But on Sunday, another 44. And every other day, we will bring home more remains of OFWs.)
Of the first batch, 13 died of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), while the rest passed away due to natural causes.
“Lahat ng mga kamag-anak ng darating na mga namatay ay naimporma na sila,” he said.
(Relatives of the arriving deceased OFWs have been informed.)
Bello said they informed relatives of those who died of COVID-19 that the remains will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation.
“Sagot lahat, pati cremation, sagot ng gobyerno 'yan.” he said.
(The government will shoulder everything, including the cremation cost.)
For OFWs who died of natural causes, Bello said the remains have to be buried within 24 hours after arrival.
Bello urged relatives of the deceased OFWs who are from the Visayas and Mindanao not to travel to Manila as a C-130 plane will bring the remains to their respective province.
DOLE is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government to contact the OFW’s next-of-kin, Bello said.
The 2 batches are part of the total 274 remains of OFWs set to be flown home from Saudi Arabia, he said.
Some of the remains of the OFWs accumulated in the Middle East nation as the Department of Foreign Affairs arranged for the necessary permits, Foreign Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said.
"Bago ang COVID-19, talagang nag-uuwi po tayo ng mga kababayan nating nasawi. Yung inuuwi natin, mga naipon. Hindi naman po lahat tinamaan ng COVID. Marami po doon naipon sapagkat kailangan intindihin natin na hindi lang po flight. Bago po iuwi yan ay kailangan po ng permit," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo in a separate interview.
(We repatriate the remains of our countrymen even before COVID-19. Not all of the bodies we'll fly home contracted the virus. Some were left in Saudi Arabia because we have to understand, not only do we need to arrange for flights, we also have to get permits.)
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has repatriated 79,000 OFWs who were affected by the pandemic, Bello said.
The agency continues to provide assistance to affected OFWs, he added.