By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers thanked on Saturday, June 27, the Duterte government for its efforts to immediately repatriate the remains of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), including those who succumbed to COVID-19.
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez lauded the proposal of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to fly back home all the remains of 287 OFWs who died in Saudi Arabia, including the 107 coronavirus disease patients, which was approved by the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) during its meeting last Thursday.
By repatriating the remains of the fallen OFWs, the government is “honoring their huge contributions and sacrifices to keep the economy afloat,” he said.
“This is a very difficult moment for the families whose loved ones died while working hard abroad. We support and hail the malasakit (compassionate) proposal of Secretary Bello to bring back home the remains of our kababayans,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez met with Bello and Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor in his office last Friday night after the House Committee on Public Accounts’ virtual probe on the government’s migration response policy to COVID-19 pandemic.
Defensor, chairperson of the House Committee on Public Accounts, said, “Thank you President Duterte and Secretary Bello for honoring OFWs who
died abroad at the height of this pandemic. We hope that the return of
their remains may give a little comfort to their loved ones in this
very trying moment.”
Bello, a former partylist representative, said the repatriation of OFWs’ remains is scheduled on July 7.
“Nobody objected to my proposal to bring them (cadavers) back to our
country. The government will repatriate their (OFWs) remains by July
7,” he said.
“Upon arrival in the country of OFWs’ remains, immediate cremation
will be undertaken and the ashes will be given to their family members,” he added.
If Bello would have his way, he would prefer heroes’ burial for the OFWs.
“I am going to bury them at the Libingan ng mga Bayani,”he said.
The IATF initially planned to have the OFWs’ cadavers buried in the Middle East country, as cremation is prohibited there and amid warning by health experts about the risks of transporting the remains infected with coronavirus disease.
Bello said of the 287 OFWs who died in Saudi Arabia, 107 succumbed to COVID, while 180 died of other natural causes.