PH envoy to Saudi: 353 remains of Filipinos awaiting repatriation

Published June 22, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Roy Mabasa

Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto on Monday disclosed that there are 353 remains of Filipinos currently awaiting repatriation to the Philippines, including 107 who succumbed to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) infection.

“There are 353 human remains for disposition, 107 are COVID-related and the 246 are mostly of natural causes. That’s what we are addressing with the Saudi authorities,” Alonto said during the Laging Handa briefing.

He said the lockdown caused by the pandemic has created a huge backlog in the number of remains of Filipinos who died in the Kingdom during the past several months.

Alonto said they have made representations with the Saudi government regarding arrangements for the repatriation of the bodies while also seeking an exemption from the Muslim tradition of immediately burying the remains.

“Ordinarily, they immediately bury the remains under the Islamic customs. But for non-Muslims, they said they will respect the disposition and they gave us that assurance,” he added.

Adding to the problem, according to Alonto, is that many morgues and hospitals in Saudi Arabia have already reached their capacities.

At the onset of the pandemic, the Saudi government has required that COVID-related remains should be disposed of within 72 hours.

Although most of the deaths were of natural causes, Alonto admitted there are few deaths that can be classified as controversial and of crimes.

Apart from the challenge of bringing home all the bodies, he said the embassy, through the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA), is also helping the families of the deceased, most particularly the documented ones, to negotiate the end-of-service benefits from employers and possibly insurance claims.

DFA Secretary Tedoro Locsin Jr. said they are making arrangements for cargo planes to bring back the remains from Saudi Arabia.