DOLE hopes to repatriate OFWs’ remains from Saudi Arabia before July 4

Robie de Guzman   •   June 29, 2020   •   281

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has expressed hope to fly home the bodies of 301 deceased overseas Filipino workers before the July 4 deadline set by the Saudi government.

“We were given a deadline of July 4, so we hope to bring them back before that deadline,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.

DOLE earlier reported that preparations are underway to bring home the remains of Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia, including the 152 who succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The remains of deceased OFWs will be brought home via two chartered flights from Riyadh and Jeddah.

DOLE said the Department of Health (DOH) is expected to issue this week the protocols in handling, reception and domestic transport of the remains.

Upon arrival in the country, Bello said the remains of those who died from coronavirus disease will be brought directly to the crematoriums identified by their respective families or local government units.

While those who died of natural causes will be allowed to be fetched by their respective families.

Meanwhile, Bello assured the government is ready to receive and assist more returning Filipino workers who were displaced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Labor chief made the assurance as he welcomed the statement of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to allow more airlines to operate for OFW repatriation.

CAAP has been strictly regulating flights in the country to help curb the spread of the viral respiratory disease.

However, the restriction has prevented government from maximizing its initiatives to repatriate migrant workers whose jobs took a hit amid the global health crisis.

“With CAAP’s permission, we can now bring home more OFWs so they can find refuge in their own country and be reunited with their families,” Bello said.

“We now have systems to locate and track OFWs so that while they signify their intention of flying home, preparations for them are already being made such as testing, hotel accommodation, and transport service to their places of origin,” he added, referring to the OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) of DOLE developed to locate migrant workers and help government prepare the needs of returning OFWs.

“What’s important is the readiness of the government to provide prompt and appropriate service for our OFWs,” Bello said.

DOLE ‘ready to extend’ assistance to ABS-CBN workers affected by shutdown

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines –  The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday (July 14) said it is “ready to extend” assistance to all workers of ABS-CBN Corp. who will be displaced as a result of Congress’ denial of the media giant’s application for new franchise. 

“We are ready to extend the necessary assistance to all employees who may be displaced as a result of the congressional action,” Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione said in a statement.

The official emphasized that while the agency sympathizes with what happened, the network must ensure that all employees who are likely to be terminated, will receive their separation benefits as mandated by law.

“Should termination, reduction or displacement of workforce become unavoidable, the first thing that ABS-CBN should do is compensate the employees because it is legally bound to pay separation benefits to those who will be retrenched or terminated,” she said.

Dione said the agency is now in the process of determining the exact number of employees of the network who will be affected by the retrenchment.

“If they truly care for their workers, then the network is morally bound to give them all pays and emoluments that the law provides,” the official said of ABS-CBN.

READ: ABS-CBN to stay off-air after House panel junks bid for new 25-year franchise

On July 10, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied ABS-CBN’s bid for a fresh 25-year franchise, ending its 34 years of broadcasting on free TV. 

The network claims that around 11.000 of its employees are likely to be laid off as a result of the decision.

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

Solon pushes for military honors for OFWs who died of COVID-19 abroad

Marje Pelayo   •   July 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is pushing for the granting of military honors to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who succumbed to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) abroad as they can be considered as ‘modern-day heroes.’

Senior Citizen Party-list Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. in House Resolution No. 1027 said the sacrifices of OFWs and their significant contribution to the country’s economy are enough to merit them such military honors. 

Based on the latest count of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a total of 577 OFWs have already died of COVID-19 from the overall number of 8,679 confirmed cases across the globe.

Datol said OFWs are qualified under The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines for their unconditional sacrifices as overseas workers.

The lawmaker also proposed that the government shoulder the complete burial expenses of every OFW who died of COVID-19 abroad as part of the full military honors. 

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