HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has hailed the initiative of the Duterte administration through Labor Sec. Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III to immediately repatriate the remains of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), including those who died of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).
Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, said the move of the Philippine government to bring back the remains of OFWs in this time of COVID-19 pandemic is a great way of showing respect and honoring their huge contributions and sacrifices to keep the economy afloat.
“This is a very difficult moment to the families whose loved ones died while working hard abroad. We support and hail the malasakit (compassionate) proposal of Sec. Bello to bring back home the remains of our kababayans,” said Romualdez who met Bello and Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor in his office Friday night.
Upon instructions from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the House committee on public accounts chaired by Defensor held a virtual briefing on the government’s repatriation program for OFWs at the Plenary Hall of the House of Representatives Thursday while majority of lawmakers and resource persons participated via Zoom application.
Defensor, vice chairman of the House committee on health, also welcomed the planned repatriation of OFWs’ remains.
“Thank you President Duterte and Sec. 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,” said Defensor.
Bello said his proposal to repatriate the remains of OFWs from JSA was approved by the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) during a meeting last Thursday.
“Nobody objected to my proposal to bring them (cadavers) back to our country. The government will repatriate their (OFWs) remains by July 7,” said Bello.
“Upon arrival to the country of OFWs’ remains, immediate cremation will be undertaken and give the ashes to their family members,” said Bello.
If he could have his way and without legal impediment, Bello said, “I am going to bury them at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
Based on the initial plan of the IATF, the bodies will be buried in Saudi as cremation is not permitted there due to cultural prohibitions and health experts have warned of risks of transporting cadavers infected with COVID-19.
According to latest data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Bello said there are 287 Filipino cadavers in KSA with pending disposition.
Bello said 107 of 287 died of COVID-19 while 180 died of other natural causes.
Romualdez lauded the OFWs whom he described as “dedicated workers” and whose sacrifices have been “contributing immensely to our economy, employment, and nation-building.”
Defensor also acknowledged the millions of OFWs for their sacrifices and great contributions to the economy. “We salute the selflessness and courage of our OFWs to provide long term good of their loved ones,” said Defensor.