The remains of 49 Filipino workers who died in Dammam and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia has arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment, 20 of them died of COVID-19 while the rest died of other causes. Reports said the cargo plane carrying the bodies arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at around 10:30 a.m.
Upon arrival, the caskets carrying the bodies of 32 OFWs from Dammam and 17 from Riyadh were brought to the Villamor Airbase for disinfection. The remains of those who died of COVID-19 would be immediately cremated. Relatives of those who died of natural causes have the option to either receive the remains and bury or have them cremated.
In the coming days, remains of more than 200 deceased Filipinos based abroad will be repatriated. The repatriation of human remains of such magnitude is a first for the government, DOLE said. Labor Secretary Silvestre H Bello III apologized for the delay of the repatriation but stressed that the government continues in its relentless effort to bring them all home.
“Despite the enormous hurdles, we have brought back the first 49 remains of our deceased OFWs from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“We sincerely apologize for the much-delayed homecoming owing to the lockdowns, and strenuous processes that we have to undergo for their return,” Bello added.
Another batch of remains will be flown in from Saudi on July 12.
Earlier, the labor secretary assured the families and relatives of the 274 deceased OFWs whose remains would be brought home that the government will shoulder all repatriation cost.
Bello said the families of the dead Filipino workers will receive benefits such as bereavement benefits and insurance.
Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs showed that as of July 9, there are 8,792 confirmed COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad. Fatality count is at 592, while 5,254 have recovered and were discharged from medical facilities.