Around 264 remains of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been sent home from Saudi Arabia in 2020, with many of them dying of COVID-19, an official from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said today.
Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac told the news program Unang Hirit in an interview that the process of repatriating dead bodies from the kingdom has become more difficult due to the pandemic. It normally takes one month, but it has become longer due to restrictions imposed by the host country.
“We’ve had mass repatriation efforts and 264 remains have been sent home. Of the 264, there were 170 COVID cases. It’s important to mention these 170 COVID cases because this is a huge threat,” Cacdac said.
Despite the OWWA’s best efforts, however, the bodies of some Filipinos are stuck in the Middle East country, including that of the late Patricio Lacanilao, who died of a heart attack. His corpse is still in a freezer three months after his death, according to his daughter Lheny Palaganas who appeared in the program. Palaganas said that her father’s former employer was uncooperative.
Cacdac told the grieving daughter that delays are expected because they need to follow a process.
“There should be a no-objection certificate [from the employer] so that the embassy could process the repatriation from Riyadh, the sending of her father’s remains,” Cacdac said.
“Once this process is done, our embassy needs to coordinate with the POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) with his employer so that the body is sent home,” the government official said.
Remains of OFWs first started arriving in Manila from Saudi Arabia in July. The Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that there are at least 800,000 Filipinos in the kingdom, a popular employment destination since the 1980s.
This article, At least 170 overseas Filipino workers who died of COVID-19 sent home this year, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!