By Noreen Jazul
Saudi Arabia has given the Philippines more time to bring home the remains of more than 200 overseas Filipino workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said on Tuesday.
“Napakiusapan naman ni [Philippine] Ambassador [to Riyadh Adnan] Alonto at ng ating labor attache na kung maari bigyan pa tayo ng time para makahanap ng eroplano na mag lilipad sa kanila (Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto and our labor attache were able to convince the Saudi government to give us more time to find a plane which can fly the remains back to the Philippines),” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III told DZMM radio in an interview.
Bello did not specify the period until when the Philippines can repatriate the deceased OFWs.
Initially, the Saudi government gave the Philippines a 72-hour deadline.
The labor secretary assured that they will be able to send planes to Saudi Arabia “within this week.”
Bello said they are also studying whether the bodies of OFWs who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) should be repatriated or not
“Pinag aaralan namin ng task force na baka delikado kung i-uuwi pa natin dito at baka madamay pa iyong mga kamag-anak na sasalubong at makikipag libing (We are studying whether to repatriate the bodies of the OFWs who died of COVID-19 or not, because it might put at risk the lives of the relatives who will claim the bodies),” Bello said.
“Manghihingi kami ng pahintulot [sa mga kamag anak] na payagan na iyong Saudi government na ilibing iyong mga namatay ng COVID-19 doon, at ang iuwi na lang natin iyong mga namatay of natural causes (We will seek the permission of the families of OFWs who died of COVID-19 to allow the Saudi government to bury the bodies of their relative instead so that the only remains which need to be repatriated will be those who died of natural causes),” he added.