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As gov’t eyes Hanjin strategic investor, ex-Navy chief frets over national security

Investors from China, other countries have shown interest

MANILA—Local trade officials on Friday said they are ready to assist downturn-hit Hanjin Philippines in finding a so-called white knight investor.

Two Chinese companies have inquired about the local unit of the South Korean shipbuilder, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

However, a former Philippine navy official believes the development is more than just a matter of trade or economics, but a “very significant national security issue.”

Investors from Japan, Singapore and Indonesia are also interested, the DTI added.

“Ang kailangan masuportahan is, first, to assist in a possible investor, strategic investor coming from the industry to be the one taking over,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters.

Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo added: “Si Hanjin nagpaparinig na dati that they are open to a joint venture, pero ’yung kino-quote nilang presyo for the whole thing . . . Halimbawa, if you want to take it over noong time na ’yon compared to the amount they quote to us yesterday, times six yata ’yung dati.” 

Reeling from a global slowdown in shipping, Hanjin’s Philippine unit has sought court-assisted rehabilitation to pay 5 banks some $412 million.

Former Philippine Navy chief Alexander Pama, meanwhile, warned government and the business sector not to allow the shipyard to “fall into the wrong hands.”

He said such a move would “give the owners unlimited access to one of our most strategic geographic naval and maritime assets.”

“Let’s be aware that this Hanjin shipyard issue is not just about business, financial and other economic issues. This is a very significant national security issue,” Pama said in a Facebook post Saturday.

“I urge our patriotic business community and the government not to allow Hanjin Shipyard to fall into the wrong hands!”

Pama served as Navy chief under President Benigno Aquino III from 2011 to 2012, when the country was locked in a standoff with Beijing at Scarborough Shoal, just 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

Subic Bay, located in Zambales, was previously the largest overseas naval facility of the US military until 1992. — With a report from Bruce Rodriguez