FILE PHOTO from PTV4
The first batch of remains of Philippines’ fallen modern-day heroes to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia has arrived today at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The cargo plane carrying the remains of 49 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) landed at 10:30 am.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said 20 of them died from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while the rest died of other causes.
Upon arrival, the caskets carrying the bodies of 32 OFWs from Dammam and 17 from Riyadh were brought to the Villamor Airbase for disinfection.
More than 200 more deceased OFWs in Saudi will be repatriated in the coming days. According to DOLE, the repatriation of human remains of this magnitude is a first for the government.
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,” he added.
Another batch of remains will be flown 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.
Upon arrival, the remains of those who died of COVID-19 would be immediately cremated.
Meanwhile, relatives of those who died of natural causes have the option to either get the remains and bury or have them cremated.
Bello said the families of the dead Filipino workers will receive benefits such as bereavement benefits and insurance.