Sen. Grace Poe asked the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to extend immediate assistance to the families of the 14 overseas Filipino workers who were killed in a vehicle mishap in Saudi Arabia.

“This is an extremely difficult time for the families of our OFWs, and the last thing they need is to experience more difficulties and delay in getting assistance from the government,” she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has confirmed the death of 14 Filipinos in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia when their shuttle collided with a delivery truck early this week. At least 13 others were wounded and are in intensive care at a hospital.

The Filipinos were reported to be employees of engineering firm Kentz Company.

Poe, an independent presidential contender who is pushing for greater protection for OFWs upon departure, said the OWWA and DFA in Saudi should complete the incident report this week so that the families of the OFWs could get the benefits due them as members of the OWWA.

“The contributions of our OFWs have kept the Philippines afloat during the most difficult economic times. The least we can do for them is to take care of their families when they are no longer able to,” she said.

OFW remittances in 2014 reached $26.93 billion.  According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Saudi Arabia is the most preferred country of destination of workers, accounting for 24.8 percent of some 2.3 million documented OFWs.

After completing the incident report, the DFA and OWWA must explain the repatriation procedure to the families of the dead OFWs and the required documents for the process.

The government is expected to provide airport assistance to the families as well.

Beneficiaries of OWWA members who are killed in an accident are entitled to P200,000 in cash, P20,000 for funeral services, livelihood program and an educational grant for one child in a public school.

It remains unclear whether those who were killed and injured are members of OWWA, but Poe said the government should nevertheless extend all possible assistance to their loved-ones here.

 “Times like this call for utmost compassion for our fellow Filipinos who have been forced by circumstances to leave their families. Having them return in boxes is a tragedy that will haunt their loved-ones forever. We must do what we can to help in whatever way possible,” she said. #