THE repatriation of the remains of 301 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who died in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been postponed until next week, pending compliance with the required documentation for their transport, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said on Saturday that the three Philippine Overseas Labor Offices handling the repatriation of the dead OFWs would have to abide by the strict guidelines of both KSA and Philippine governments in the transport of the remains.
“We regret to announce that the repatriation of the remains of our dear OFWs from Saudi Arabia is being delayed due to the pending release of documentary requirements and our common desire to strictly adhere to the health protocols in transporting them,” said Bello in a statement.
“The July 4 deadline has been extended to early next week for us to fly home our beloved modern day heroes,” he added.
Bello also reiterated his assurance to the families of the dead OFWs that the government is committed to bringing the bodies back home.
Of the 301 deceased, 152 succumbed to the coronavirus disease while the rest perished under other circumstances.
Bello guaranteed all remains would be flown to the Philippines as soon as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) gives the go-ahead in compliance with the set of protocols from the Department of Healthy (DoH) for the handling, reception and domestic transport of the Covid-19 victims and the 149 other non-Covid casualties.
Based on initial preparations, two chartered planes were to separately fly the Covid dead and the non-Covid remains. The bodies were to be transported from various points to Riyadh and Jeddah and flown back to the country by the second week of July.
DoLE was then supposed to notify the families of the arrival of the remains of their loved ones and to advise their respective local government units (LGUs) to allow their domestic transport.
Upon touchdown on Philippine soil, the Covid dead were then meant to be transported, with the help of the Department of National Defense, directly to the crematoria predetermined by the families or the LGUs.
Meanwhile, the bodies of those who died of natural or other causes were to be fetched at the airport by their respective families.