Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. Reuters

Chinese nationals applying for tourist and business-related visa at the Philippine embassy in Beijing have increased to 200 per cent. The Philippine ambassador to China, Jose Santiago Sta. Romana, has attributed this rise to President's Duterte foreign policy announcement to align Philippines with China.

Sta. Romana said that travel and tour companies in China have increased their booking travels to the Philippines as there seems to be a growing demand in the China-Philippines travel market.

The Philippine ambassador also noted that during the heated exchanges between China and the Philippines over South China Sea issue a few years ago, Chinese nationals were not interested in visiting the Philippines. "The Philippine government aims to double tourism arrivals this year and the problem right now is how to make it easier for the Chinese to process their visa to travel," Sta. Romana was quoted saying by Philippine Star.

From January to December 2016, around 675,663 visited the Philippines, which 37.65% higher than the previous years. Moreover, for January to February this year, a 25.42 percent increase was noted in the tourist arrivals record compared to the same period in 2016.

The Chinese government pledged a total of USD 24 billion soft loan assistance to the Philippines to fast-track the construction of infrastructure projects that will boost the economy. The Duterte administration also turned down a grant worth 250 million euro from the European Union, which was involved in the peace building programs in the Southern Philippines.

Duterte and the European Unions have been at loggerheads since the latter denounced the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines under the president.

Early this week, a group of Filipino foreign policy experts flew to China to discuss with their counterparts how to collaborate and eventually create a bilateral body that will co-manage the South China Sea.