A party-list lawmaker on Thursday urged Malacañang to constitute a Cabinet-level committee that would look into “all available options” to quickly revive the now-idle Subic shipyard of bankrupt Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines Inc..
“Our biggest concern now is how to rescue the shipyard’s 10,800 Filipino workers, including the 7,000 laid off in December,” said ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III.
“Many of them will surely end up looking for new employment overseas if we can’t give them back their jobs, or if they can’t find alternative gainful work here,” Bertiz said.
At its peak, Hanjin’s ship construction and repair facilities in Subic Bay, Zambales, directly employed up to 21,000 Filipinos.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza earlier told a Senate hearing that the Palace was “very receptive” to the idea of a possible government takeover of the Subic shipyard, reputed to be the world’s fourth largest.
“Another option is for the government to encourage a new private investor—preferably a Filipino conglomerate—to come in, pay off Hanjin’s bank debts and other liabilities at a discount, and then revive the shipyard’s operations initially at a smaller scale,” Bertiz said.
An Olongapo City regional trial court has already put Hanjin under receivership after the company defaulted on its debts obligations and filed for corporate rehabilitation on Jan. 8.
It was the biggest corporate bankruptcy ever in the Philippines, with $412 million (P21.5 billion) in unpaid loans owed to five banks—Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., Bank of the Philippine Islands and BDO Unibank Inc.
In the Senate, Senator Antonio Trillanes’ IV said he’s not likely to support the proposal of Senator Panfilo Lacson for the Philippine government to take over the operations of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in Subic, Zambales.
“I respect his opinion but I don’t agree with it. Because the Davao Group of Mr. [Rodrigo] Duterte is too much nowadays. They have been taking over the industries in the country,” Trillanes said.
He instead suggested that government refrain from dipping its fingers on Hanjin since the company is still under rehabilitation by the banks.
“Let’s leave it to the professionals and it seems that it’s a private company to begin with and once the government entered it, some companies might be favored anew,” he said.
At the same time, Trillanes said the issue of security should be closely watched because Chinese companies might come into the picture.
At present, he said there is “the active, highly active initiative of China to expand their influence and that area has many implication,” the senator said.
Trillanes said that Hanjin, the country’s biggest shipyard, has a submarine bay complex, which is a strategic defense location.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, meanwhile, has proposed that the government enter into a partnership with local taipans and Korean investors to take over the debt-saddled Hanjin Philippines so that the country can build its own ships.
He said that the Hanjin shipyard is a very important natural resource, of human, logistical and engineering resource, which the country should continue.
“It would also ensure that the workers’ livelihood is protected by using the shipyard capabilities to build our own ships for defense,” the senator said
Gordon said the government should come up with investment packages to entice investors so that it could continue the shipyard’s operations and comply with its commitments..
He said Korean investors should likewise be enticed because they have the know-how and the country will benefit from the technology transfer.
However, while he wants the Philippine Navy to have its headquarters inside the shipyard, he is not amenable to having the Navy manage the shipyard operations.
The senator also stressed the need for maritime academies to open up naval architecture courses once the government takes over Hanjin to enable the country to design and build its own ships.
Hanjin Philippines filed last week a petition before the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City for voluntary rehabilitation under Republic Act 10142 or the law providing for the rehabilitation or liquidation of financially distressed enterprises and individuals.
Hanjin Philippines officials has informed the the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority that the company has around $400 million in outstanding loans from Philippine banks on top of $900 million in debts owed to South Korea lenders.