President Rodrigo Duterte answers queries from members of the media on the sidelines of the 69th founding anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at the DSWD Central Office in Quezon City on Jan. 29, 2020. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said there would be no immediate ban on travelers from China amid the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), as Beijing might complain that the Chinese were being singled out.

Duterte told reporters the Philippines was grappling with how to deal with the “mysterious” disease, for which there were no established protocols.

“What we can do is to limit the people entering maybe the Philippines. It could include China, but at this time, I am not for it. It would not be fair,” he said at the sidelines of the anniversary rites of the social welfare department in Quezon City.

“Mahirap ‘yang ano — sabihin mo you (It’s difficult to say you will) suspend everything because they are not also suspending theirs and they continue to respect the freedom, flights that we enjoy in their country,” he said.

Duterte also vowed to rescue Filipinos trapped in Wuhan, the Chinese city that was the source of the virus.

“Well, we are always conscious of our citizens, their health. And if they are going home, we are ready to ferry them back to the Philippines but all precautions must be in place,” he said.

Officials earlier agreed to support overseas Filipinos in China and provide comprehensive transport and quarantine plans for Filipinos from Hubei province who wish to “voluntarily return” to the Philippines.

There will also be temporary restrictions on the issuance of visas for travelers from Hubei and advisories temporarily discouraging non-essential travel to China.

“I wish to inform our kababayans (compatriots) that the government will take care of you whether you choose to stay or return home. For those who wish to return, you be will taken care of in a health facility for monitoring and further medical management,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Tuesday.

According to records from the Department of Foreign Affairs, 14,349 Filipinos were working in China as of December 2019, with the biggest number, 7,043, under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai.

There are 3,118 Filipinos under the coverage of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, while 2,643 are under the Consulate General in Guangzhou and 1,107 under the Xiamen Philippine Consulate General. There were 438 Filipino workers under the Philippine Consulate General in Chongqing.

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong reported 244,333 Filipino workers as of November 2019. There are 36,165 Filipino workers earning their living in Macau as of June 30,2019. ( with Melo M. Acuña)