MANILA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- More Chinese tourists had visited the Philippines during the first half of 2017, the Philippine government record showed on Saturday.
From January to July this year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said that the number of Chinese nationals who visited the Philippines totaled 454,962, compared to the 340,958 recorded in the same period last year, or an increase of 33.44 percent.
The visit of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to China in October last year paved the way for the uptick in Chinese arrivals to the Philippines, according to the DOT records.
Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in a statement this week that the Philippines expects more Chinese arrivals this year with the implementation of the visa upon arrival (VUA) program.
Teo lauded the approval of the Department of Justice (DOJ) of its long-standing VUA proposal, saying the program would ease the visa rules and procedures for Chinese tourists and investors into the country.
"We also believe this will serve as an incentive to Chinese guests who may be prospective investors wanting to prove that the country is not only a safe haven for tourists but also a lucrative business location as well," Teo said.
She said the granting VUA to Chinese visitors "will only help keep the momentum of massive influx of Chinese tourists in to the country."
"In welcoming our Chinese visitors with open arms, we also share the enthusiasm of DOJ, through the Bureau of Immigration, to foster improved bilateral relations with Beijing," Teo said.
Earlier this week, the DOJ issued a circular granting VUA to Chinese citizens in an apparent move to lure more Chinese tourists and investors to visit the Philippines.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said in a statement that qualified Chinese nationals can soon avail of the VUA privilege.
It said the program applies to Chinese nationals who are members of tour groups organized by DOT-accredited tour operators, investors endorsed by local and foreign chamber of commerce, the Board on Investment, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the Philippine Retirement Authority, and delegates to sports competitions, delegates to conventions, exhibitions and symposia.
The BI said Chinese nationals should file their applications at least 10 working days before they arrive in the Philippines.
For this year, the Philippines is expecting Chinese tourist arrivals to hit the 1 million mark.