DOLE hopes to repatriate OFWs’ remains from Saudi Arabia before July 4

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has expressed hope to fly home the bodies of 301 deceased overseas Filipino workers before the July 4 deadline set by the Saudi government.

“We were given a deadline of July 4, so we hope to bring them back before that deadline,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.

DOLE earlier reported that preparations are underway to bring home the remains of Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia, including the 152 who succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The remains of deceased OFWs will be brought home via two chartered flights from Riyadh and Jeddah.

DOLE said the Department of Health (DOH) is expected to issue this week the protocols in handling, reception and domestic transport of the remains.

Upon arrival in the country, Bello said the remains of those who died from coronavirus disease will be brought directly to the crematoriums identified by their respective families or local government units.

While those who died of natural causes will be allowed to be fetched by their respective families.

Meanwhile, Bello assured the government is ready to receive and assist more returning Filipino workers who were displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor chief made the assurance as he welcomed the statement of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to allow more airlines to operate for OFW repatriation.

CAAP has been strictly regulating flights in the country to help curb the spread of the viral respiratory disease.

However, the restriction has prevented government from maximizing its initiatives to repatriate migrant workers whose jobs took a hit amid the global health crisis.

“With CAAP’s permission, we can now bring home more OFWs so they can find refuge in their own country and be reunited with their families,” Bello said.

“We now have systems to locate and track OFWs so that while they signify their intention of flying home, preparations for them are already being made such as testing, hotel accommodation, and transport service to their places of origin,” he added, referring to the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) of DOLE developed to locate migrant workers and help government prepare the needs of returning OFWs.

“What’s important is the readiness of the government to provide prompt and appropriate service for our OFWs,” Bello said.

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