Senators, Defense chief eye gov't takeover of Hanjin shipyard

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — Senators and the Defense Chief are considering a government takeover of the Hanjin Heavy Industries Construction shipyard in Subic, Zambales as the company undergoes corporate rehabilitation.

"This is a golden opportunity to take advantage of being able to take control of the Hanjoin facility for ship building, for our Navy's modernization program," Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri said Wednesday during Defense budget deliberations.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told senators he has floated the idea to President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday evening. He said the President was "very receptive" to the idea.

"This is very perfect to us. We are actually ordering our ships abroad. But if we can take over, then we can build our own ships here," Lorenzana said.

He said the government can be a minority shareholder of Hanjin, while private companies can have the majority stake.

However, Lorenzana said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez is thinking about how local banks can recover loans extended to the Korean shipbuilder totalling around $412 or roughly more than P21 billion. Hanjin is having trouble paying debts from Philippine banks. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said Hanjin will continue to operate, even as it has substantially cut staff from 30,000 during its peak to just around 300 to 400.

READ: Central bank says lenders' exposure to Hanjin 'negligible'

Meanwhile, Zubiri and Senator Ping Lacson said the government should acquire a majority stake in Hanjin. Lacson added the government can use a portion of the ₱75 billion additional budget of the Public Works department.

The Philippine Navy admitted it could not take full control of Hanjin, but only "a portion" of it.

Former Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama has warned of a Chinese takeover of the shipyard, which could give the Asian giant unlimited access to one of the Philippines' most strategic geographic naval and maritime asset.

Malacañang said there's no problems in Chinese firms taking control of Hanjin.