Chinese firms 'hands off' Hanjin takeover – Board of Investments

MANILA, Philippines – The Board of Investments (BOI) on Thursday, March 14, said that Chinese firms are so far "not interested" in taking over Subic-based shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines.

During a roundtable discussion, the BOI was asked about the developments in the possible takeover of Hanjin, after the company went bankrupt.

"'Yung China, hands off sila, pero may in-entertain ako na Chinese investor. Pero ang particular na gusto nila i-manufacture dito sa Pilipinas eh 'yung RO-RO (roll-on, roll-off) manufacturing kasi 'yun 'yung kulang natin eh," BOI Chief Investments Specialist Reynaldo Lignes said.

(China is hands off, but I entertained a Chinese investor. But they want to be involved in RO-RO manufacturing here in the Philippines because that's what we lack.)

Lignes said investors are more interested in manufacturing smaller vessels, rather than big merchant vessels similar to those built by Hanjin.

"Lumiliit na ang demand sa vessel kasi maliit na barko na 'yung kailangan. 'Yan ang situation ngayon, kaya maraming nagsasarang [manufacturer]," Lignes said.

(The demand for vessels is declining because smaller ships are needed now. That's the current situation, that's why a lot of manufacturing businesses are closing down.)

If that's the route to be taken, Bureau of Local Employment Director Dominique Tutay said workers must be equipped with the needed skills.

"The workers need to prepare the skill set necessary for the new types of ships to be able to transition," Tutay said.

Preparing for closure?

Currently, Hanjin's workforce is down to 113 employees who did not agree with the voluntary retrenchment package, from over 28,000 employees at its peak.

The remaining workers are in limbo – and locked out of the shipyard – as their company IDs can no longer be swiped at the facility's entrance.

Hanjin workers' group president Efren Vinluan told Rappler that the workers are staying at their picket line near the shipyard's gate.

They alleged that some 300 workers who accepted the voluntary retrenchment package were "rehired" for the month of March.

"Gusto lang po naming pumasok. Kahit maintenance work 'yung ginagawa nilang 300, eh bakit hindi na lang kami 'yung hinire na hindi pa nagre-resign?" Vinluan said.

(We only want to go to work. Even if it's maintenance work that the 300 were hired for, why didn't they hire us – who didn't resign – instead?)

Tutay confirmed that the rehired workers were employed for maintenance purposes.

The remaining 113 workers are demanding that Hanjin return their money deducted for training, which amounts to a 3% cut from their monthly salaries. This is why the workers don't want to leave the firm yet.

The South Korean shipbuilder filed for bankruptcy after it suffered liquidity problems to repay its debts of over $400 million to Philippine banks and another $900 million to South Korean lenders.

It is considered as the biggest loan default in Philippine history, but government regulators say it will have "minimal impact" on the banking system. (READ: Banks downplay Hanjin crisis impact)

The exact date of Hanjin's closure remains uncertain. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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