China may soon become the Philippines' "number one source of tourism" as Philippine embassies continue to be "flooded" with visa applications from Chinese tourists, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said Saturday.
"We expect Chinese tourist arrivals to breach the 1 million mark this year," Sta. Romana told reporters in Beijing.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo earlier said that her counterparts from China have committed to sending at least a million Chinese travelers to the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte pursued stronger ties with Asia's largest economy.
This while initiating bilateral talks in a bid to settle disputes over the South China Sea, where the two sides have conflicting claims.
Sta. Romana said Beijing's commitment to encourage more of its citizens to see the Philippines was already being felt in Philippine consular offices across China.
"Our consular offices and different consulates in China - in Shanghai, in Guangzhou, in Xiamen - are all flooded with a deluge of visa applications compared to the year before," he said.
"There is a crying need for more personnel because they have to work on weekends and work overtime especially when the Chinese holidays are approaching," he added.
South Koreans remain to be the country's top source of tourism with 305,052 arrivals, followed by US citizens, with 179,898 visitor arrivals, per Department of Tourism (DOT) figures as of February 2017.
Chinese tourist arrivals are meanwhile ranked third with 164,199 arrivals.
The DOT has been considering the possibility of granting visa-free travel to Chinese tourists in a bid to further increase tourist arrivals in the country.
Travel requirements, such as visas, are among the "barriers" that keep leisure travelers from China from choosing the Philippines as a vacation destination, tourism officials said.