The Philippine ambassador to Lebanon, Bernardita Catalla has died on April 2 at the age of 62 due to complications from the deadly coronavirus infection. An official statement from the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said the Catalla worked as a diplomat for 27 years and served in multiple capacities. Catalla’s death has taken the death toll in the country to 16 and more than 400 people are infected in the region.
The statement from the DFA read, “Bernie, as Ambassador Catalla was fondly called, has always lent a helping hand, to her family, friends and colleagues. Her ever-ready smile and infectious laughter may have been extinguished but her dedication to our country will always be there as a guiding light for all members of the Philippine foreign service”.
According to international media reports, Catalla was a strong defender of rights of Filipino domestic workers in Lebanon. She was also known for her hands-on approach. In recent month, the ambassador reportedly oversaw free mass repatriation aimed at more than 1,000 domestic workers whose jobs had become untenable due to the country’s deep economic crisis that led the local currency to lose more than 40 per cent of its value. Catalla also served in key posts like Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta and was Passport Director where she delivered frontline service to millions of Filipinos.
Several ministers also paid their condolences over Catalla’s death. Lebanon’s Labour Minister Lamia Yammine took to Twitter and said, “I consider her death a loss for Lebanon as well as the Philippines, as she was working to promote and consolidate relations between our two countries in various fields”.
Today, @DFAPHL lost one of its own. PH Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita “Bernie” Catalla, a frontliner in our repatriation efforts, died from Covid19 in a Beirut hospital. A great loss to @DFAPHL & to our country. Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude. pic.twitter.com/Vh6nz96SE3— Dodo Dulay (@dododulay) April 2, 2020
It was a great shock to hear the very sad news of the passing away of H.E. Ambassador Bernardita Catalla today from complications arising from COVID-19. Please accept my sincerest condolences.(1/3)— Wang Kejian (@ChinainLebanon) April 2, 2020
Yesterday we learned the sad news of the passing away of Ms. Bernardita Catalla the #Philippine ambassador to #Lebanon due to #COVID2019 ... we pass our deepest condolences to the Philippine government & people, the staff of the Embassy & all philipinos in Lebanon... @DFAPHL pic.twitter.com/LuNMfyZ8ur— LF Foreign Affairs (@LF_ForeignAff) April 3, 2020
Meanwhile, coronavirus, which originated in China in December 2019, has now claimed over 54,000 lives worldwide as of April 3. According to the tally by international news agency, the pandemic has now spread to 204 countries and has infected more than one million people. Out of the total infections, 220,003 have been recovered but the easily spread virus is continuing to disrupt many lives. Major cities have been put under lockdown in almost all countries including Spain, and the economy is struggling.