THE remains of 44 deceased overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are expected to be flown home from Saudi Arabia tomorrow, Friday, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
In a virtual press conference, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the rest of the bodies of OFWs who have died from COVID-19 and other causes are due to arrive every other day.
“We are bringing home 44 OFWs, 19 of whom are COVID-19 related, while the rest died of natural causes,” said Bello.
“If we can complete the papers of another 44 dead OFWs, we will bring in another batch of 44 OFWs on Sunday,” he added.
He said bodies coming from Riyadh and Al-Khobar will arrive Friday while those from Dammam and Jeddah will arrive on Sunday.
The remaining bodies, Bello said, will be brought home as soon as all the requirements have been completed.
“The Saudi government has been very accommodating with our requests for extension of time. It appears that they really understand the situation,” said Bello.
In all, the remains of 274 OFWs were set to be brought home. Originally, 301 remains needed to be brought home but 23 of them, all COVID fatalities, have been buried in Saudi Arabia while four who died from non-COVID cases had been brought home.
Bello said the families of the deceased OFWs will be informed by the government regarding the schedule of the arrival of their loved ones.
He also apologized for the government’s failure to bring them all in two flights as promised earlier.
As for the benefits of the families of deceased OFWs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured that it is ready to provide them assistance.
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the government intends to transport all locally stranded individuals (LSIs) to their regions and provinces by the end of July.
Ano, in his report to President Duterte, said 4,180 LSIs had been transported by government over the weekend but there are at least 1,476 more currently staying and being provided food at the Villamor Air Base Elementary School, Philippine Army Wellness Center, an area at the Libingan ng Bayani; at the Military Police headquarters, the Philippine Ports Authority, and the NAIA Terminals 2 and 3.
The government suspended the dispatch of LSIs to Cebu, Regions 6 (Western Visayas), Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) and CARAGA due to the current crowded isolation and quarantine facilities in these areas after the initial batches of LSIs had been transported.
Año said the government had assured there would be no LSIs left sleeping under the bridges or the streets surrounding different transportation terminals while waiting for their trip.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said 75,895 Filipino workers had been repatriated to the country after they lost their jobs abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said 48,099 of the OFWS had been transported to their provinces. – With Jocelyn Montemayor