Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Photo courtesy by CNN PH)

MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has given its green light to bring back home the remains of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who succumbed to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In a virtual press conference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the IATF-EID backed the proposal of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to repatriate the remains of OFWs who died of Covid-19.

“Sinuportahan ng IATF and DOLE at ang DFA na pauwiin lahat ng mga OFW na namatay dahil sa Covid-19 (The IATF supported DOLE and DFA’s move to allow the return of the remains of all OFWs who died of Covid-19),” Roque, also acting as IATF-EID spokesperson said.

The DFA announced that as of Thursday, around 513 OFWs have succumbed to Covid-19.

The total number of OFWs who acquired the disease is 8,361.

Some 5,076 of the 8,361 OFWs have already recovered from Covid-19 while around 2,772 infected Filipinos abroad are still undergoing treatment.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday gave the Philippines 72 hours to bring home the remains of the OFWs since cremation is not allowed in the Islamic kingdom.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Philippine government is now preparing for the return of the remains of the OFWs.

He said the remains of OFWs who succumbed to Covid-19 would be sealed under multiple containments and immediately cremated upon their arrival in the country.

Bello, meanwhile, announced that the remains of the 301 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who died from Covid-19 and other causes in several regions of Saudi Arabia will be flown back home in early July.

Bello said they are preparing for the repatriation with the Department of Health (DOH) who has set the protocols for the handling, reception, and domestic transport of all the bodies.

He said the three Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) will have to abide by the strict guidelines of both the Saudi and Philippine governments in the transport of the remains.

Based on initial preparations, two chartered planes will separately fly the Covid-19 fatalities and those who died of other causes.

The bodies will be transported from various points to Riyadh and Jeddah and will be flown back to the country by the second week of July.

The DOLE, he added, will notify the families of the arrival of the remains of their loved ones, along with their respective local government units (LGUs) to allow their domestic transport.

Upon arrival in the country, the bodies of Covid-19 victims will be transported with the help of the Department of National Defense directly to the crematoriums of choice of the family or the LGU.

As for the remains of those who died of natural or other causes, Bello said it will be allowed to be fetched at the airport by their respective families. (PNA)