The labor department made sure government presence was strong when the remains of 88 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who perished in Saudi Arabia amid the Covid 19 pandemic arrived Sunday morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Leading the heroes’ welcome ceremony with heads of other key state agencies, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said a grand reception was well deserved by the repatriated bodies of Filipino migrant workers “who fought a good fight” overseas.

Of the 88 bodies, Bello said 28 were from Dhahran, 11 from Jeddah, and 39 from Riyadh.

“I say they fought a good fight because just like what our migrant workers are known for, they worked tirelessly to try and make good decisions and help others,” Bello said.

“In pursuit of change in the world around them, Filipino migrant workers chose to earn a living abroad so they can provide better future for their families,” he said.

Boosting government presence during the solemn ceremony was Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin who thanked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and other government agencies for making the repatriation of OFWs possible.

Locsin said the massive repatriation of migrant workers—dead or alive—is the first in Philippine history. “This enormous task is being undertaken under the leadership of President Duterte,” he said.

Meanwhile, of the total number of OFW bodies flown home yesterday, 57 were Covid 19 victims while the rest were not, Bello said.

The Covid 19 victims were immediately brought to crematoriums while the others were flown back to their respective provinces at the expense of the government.

“All expenses for their repatriation, cremation, transportation and other expenses are shouldered by the government,” Bello said.

Earlier, the Labor Department said it was expecting 66 dead migrant workers to arrive in the country yesterday. However, it said 22 more bodies were added following the sooner than expected release of their exit visas.

The venue for receiving the dead migrant workers was also transferred to NAIA 3 from Villamor Airbase where seven of its personnel tested positive for CoVid 19.