The remains of 50 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Saudi Arabia will not be brought back to the Philippines and will instead be buried there, following local customs, Malacañang clarified on Sunday.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, these 50 OFWs who died of COVID-19-related illnesses will not be included among the remains that are set to be brought back to the Philippines.
“Per the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the remains of the 50 OFWs who died due to COVID-19 related illnesses will be buried in Saudi Arabia following the host country’s local customs. The rest will be brought back to the Philippines,” Roque said in a statement.
Earlier, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said King Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has asked Philippine authorities to bring home the remains of 282 OFWs as cremation is not allowed in the kingdom.
Bello said the Philippines was given 72 hours by Saudi Arabia to bring home the remains of the OFWs.
“We received communication from King Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they gave us 72 hours to bring home our dead,” Bello said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Malacañang consoled the families of the deceased workers while vowing to extend assistance to their bereaved kin.
“The Palace commiserates with the families and loved ones of the 282 [OFWs] who died in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Concerned agencies of the government have already been directed to extend assistance to their families,” Roque said. “We offer our prayers to the deceased and to those they left behind,” he added.
As of June 19, there are 6,128 Filipinos abroad who have contracted COVID-19. Of that figure, almost 500 have died while 2,849 have recovered from the disease. Most of the COVID-19 related deaths were recorded in the Middle East, of which Saudi Arabia is a part of.