The government of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is finding itself in a predicament over the declared bankruptcy early this year of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines – the Korean shipbuilding company based in the country.
Hanjin Philippines together with a big Japanese shipbuilding company, Tsuneishi, located in Cebu, has put the Philippines on the map as the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world.
But more than these companies being our sources of pride, it is about the boon it has given the country for employing thousands of workers most of which are skilled workers. Needless to say that Hanjin Philippines is one of the big employers in the country.
Whatever the truth is about the company’s closure, whether it is mismanagement, or liquidity problems to repay its debts, or the unexpected glut in shipbuilding demand, the fact remains that the huge Korean shipbuilding facility, which started construction in 2006 on a foreign investment locator within the Subic Freeport area, is not only a mecca for employment but also a valuable contributor to the economic growth of the country that it would be a grave mistake to leave it non-operational for a long time.
One can’t help but wonder why this misfortune affecting Hanjin Philippines came about when it is supposedly safeguarded by generous subsidies and strong support by government for foreign investors to thrive?
But that is neither here nor there now.
What is important is for President Duterte and his government to look for viable solutions to address what economist Gerardo Sicat described as “the biggest corporate bankruptcy to ever hit the Philippines.”
Offhand, Sicat’s glaring statement seems to warn that it would be foolish for government to declare a takeover for we are a big debtor country already, not to mention that we don’t have the capability and expertise to manage a complex shipbuilding operation the size of Hanjin Philippines.
Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s contention that the government’s takeover of Hanjin would result in our capability to build warships of all sorts needed to protect our territorial integrity is wishful thinking.
It would be to our country’s advantage if government instead invites the soonest possible time multinational shipbuilding companies, including China, and hear what they have to offer before the complex deteriorates.
National security breaches, as some politicians worry about, is not about the existence of foreign nationals in our country. That is nonsense. It is more about the competency and efficacy of our government operatives to make our country safe.