President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines was preparing for the worst-case scenario amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus, a pathogen that has infected thousands in several countries and killed over 100 persons in China.
In an interview with reporters, Duterte referred to the uncertainties surrounding the disease marked by flu-like symptoms.
"We are just preparing maybe for the worst," Duterte said.
"We will marshall what we have. But what we do not know, we are at a loss really on what to do," he added.
The Philippines remained free of the virus but 23 people were under observation for possible infection.
Duterte said the government was ready to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan City, China, the epicenter of the growing outbreak which has already killed more than 100 people and infected nearly 6,000.
“We're ready to ferry them back to the Philippines but all precautions must be in place. All precautions must be in place, maybe spraying of the entire plane, from the landing gear up to the rooftop,” Duterte said.
“All precautions must be in place so as not to allow another contamination here.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs has already directed the Philippine consulate in Shanghai to immediately start processing Filipinos in China's Hubei province who wish to be repatriated.
There are 300 Filipinos in Hubei, half of whom are living in its capital Wuhan.
Fifty Filipinos have reportedly indicated their wish to return home as of Tuesday night.
Health and Foreign Affairs officials earlier said Filipinos who will be repatriated from China must undergo a two-week quarantine. Officials said the government would shoulder the logistical and medical costs during the quarantine period.
The Bureau of Immigration also temporarily stopped issuing tourist visas on arrival to Chinese nationals in a bid to curb their arrival and minimize the chance of virus transmission.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente however clarified on Tuesday that there is no order barring Chinese nationals from entering the country. —NB, GMA News