Malacañang said it sees no problem with the idea of a Chinese firm with proven track record taking over the debt-saddled Hanjin Philippines after a former Navy official warned against the shipyard falling into "wrong hands."
"Kung Chinese company naman na dati na nating ka-deal at wala namang problema eh di walang isyu. Kung hindi natin kilala eh di siyempre we have to vet para malaman natin," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a news conference.
Panelo also said talks about which company will take over Hanjin Philippines remains a speculation at this point.
"Hindi naman sinasabi na they [Chinese firms] are bidding for it. Nagpaparamdam pa lang sila," he said, adding he has received information that Filipino businesses also want a stake in Hanjin.
Two Chinese shipbuilding companies have expressed intent to invest in debt-riddled Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines, the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) said last Friday, prompting former Philippine Navy chief Alexander Pama to remind the public that the development is not just about business.
Pama said that ownership of the shipyard in Subic, Zambales, which once hosted an American naval base, would "give the owners unlimited access to one of our most strategic geographic naval and maritime assets."
Subic is just 124 miles away from Scarborough Shoal, one of the subjects of the maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea.
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 revealed to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) that the company has $412 million in loans from Philippine banks on top of $900 million in debts owed to South Korea lenders.
The South Korean shipbuilder is the biggest foreign investor in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, according to SBMA.
Hanjin Philippines has laid off more than 7,000 workers last December and will lay off another 3,000 early this year until its workforce is reduced to just about 300 local workers and as few as seven Korean supervisors by March. —LDF, GMA News