DOLE prepares for repatriation of OFWs who died of COVID-19 from Saudi

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Friday said it is now preparing for the repatriation of the bodies of Filipino workers who succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and other causes in several regions of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said their preparations include a set of protocols from the Department of Health on the handling, reception, and domestic transport of those who died from COVID-19.

Bello said they will be repatriating the remains of 152 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia who succumbed to COVID-19 and 149 others who died from various causes.

The labor chief said the bodies will be flown home by early next month after he was able to secure the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the repatriation process.

Based on initial preparations, two chartered planes will separately fly the coronavirus fatalities and those who died of other causes.

The bodies will be transported from various points to Riyadh and Jeddah, and will be flown back to the country by the second week of July.

Bello said the three Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) that will be involved in the process will have to abide by the strict guidelines of both the Saudi and Philippine governments in the transport of the remains.

Families will be notified of the arrival of the remains of their loved ones, along with their respective local government units (LGU) to allow their domestic transport, DOLE said.

Upon arrival in the country, the bodies of COVID-19 victims will be transported, with the help of the Department of National Defense, directly to the crematoriums of choice of the family or the LGU.

The remains of those who died of natural or other causes, meanwhile, will be allowed to be fetched at the airport by their respective families.

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