Bello to raise kin’s pleas to IATF to repatriate remains of OFWs who died of COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he will bring to the attention of the government’s COVID-19 task force the request of the bereaved families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who died of COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia that their remains still be brought home.
During the Senate labor committee hearing on Wednesday, Bello said the initial decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) was to bury in Saudi Arabia the remains of the 107 OFWs who succumbed to the disease.
The other 180 Filipinos who died from natural causes will be repatriated to the Philippines.
“We were asked by the Saudi government to bring them home in 72 hours but we requested for additional time for us to be able to get the necessary transport of the dead OFWs. Ang problema namin ‘yung tungkol sa COVID-related deaths,” the labor chief said.
However, relatives of the OFWs who died of COVID-19 appealed that their remains also be sent home.
“The initial decision is to bury yung mag COVID-related deaths doon, pero medyo malakas ang panawagan ng mga kamag-anak na kung maaari iuwi pa rin sila,” the labor secretary noted.
(The initial decision is to bury those who died of coronavirus there, but the families are strongly appealing that their relatives still be brought home in the Philippines).
“So tomorrow, when I report to the Inter-agency Task Force, I would present to them the appeal of the relatives of the COVID-related death OFWs baka sakaling mag-iba ang isip and we will be able to bring them home. All of them, kung ‘yun ang magiging desisyon ng IATF,” he said, adding that the government is “prepared” to charter two planes for the repatriation courtesy of the Department of Transportation.
(So tomorrow, when I report to the Inter-agency Task Force, I would present to them the appeal of the relatives of the COVID-related death OFWs, maybe they will change their mind and we will be able to bring them home. All of them, if that would be the decision of the IATF).
However, Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde said the remains of individuals who died from an infectious disease are required to be cremated before it can be transported.
“It is required not only by our local laws—‘yung ating quarantine law and sanitation code—but it is also required by international health regulations na pag ita-transport ito, kailangan cremated,” Villaverde said.
(It is required not only by our local laws—our quarantine law and sanitation code—but it is also required by international health regulations that if the dead body will be transported, it should be cremated).
But Saudi Arabia, which is a Muslim country, does not allow cremation.
“That becomes a concern because kung infectious disease kailangan sa origin pa lang, before it is transferred through the airlines or through the ship, kailangan cremated na,” Villaverde maintained.
“Otherwise, may potential for some form of decomposition kahit well-preserved yung body at saka potential na maka-contimanate din ‘yun,” he added.
(Otherwise, there is potential for some form of decomposition even if the body was well-preserved and a potential contamination).
“We’ll look into some international regulation covering this kung papano yung the originating country would not allow cremation by their tradition and their own laws titignan namin kung merong guidelines ang WHO,” he further said.
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