MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy wants to set up a base in the deep-sea harbor of the beleaguered Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines shipyard in Subic Bay, and it is hoping whoever would be the company’s white knight would have the Navy in mind when a takeover does happen, said Navy chief Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo on Monday evening, February 3.
The Navy first expressed its interest in the Hanjin shipyard in January 2019, and it is now “asking the government agencies involved to please include the Navy as part of the equation. That means, whoever buys out that Hanjin property, [we ask them to] put a certain area for the Philippine Navy,” Bacordo added.
Having a deep-sea harbor is a core requirement of the Navy. Bacordo said none of the Navy’s current bases have a harbor deep enough to house its largest strategic vessels, which are two landing dock ships, 3, offshore patrol vessels, and a corvette.
These warships currently dock at commercial ports. With more powerful vessels up for acquisition, the Navy needs to have its own harbor able to accommodate these assets, Bacordo added.
With a minimum depth of about 10 meters, secluded by mountains, and with Grande Island at the mouth of the bay serving as a natural guard post, Hanjin shipyard is an ideal location for a naval base.
“From the Navy perspective, it is very close to the Naval Education and Training Command, just about 30 to 34 minutes away. It’s also close to the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy. It’s also close to the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific,” which makes it convenient and accessible to Navy personnel, Bacordo said.
Besides, Hanjin’s employees happen to be “the remnants of the old ship repair facility of the US, so in terms of technology, in terms of capability, they have it,” he added.
On top of these, Subic Bay opens to the West Philippine Sea, a primary concern for the Navy as it seeks to establish a more formidable presence in the waters where China stakes a spurious claim of ownership by sending its own military and militia vessels.
The financially troubled Hanjin earlier filed for voluntary rehabilitation due to $1.3 billion in outstanding loans – $400 million from local banks and $900 million from South Korean lenders.
In 2019, the Australian shipbuilder Austal informed the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Hanjin’s creditors of its intention to bail out and acquire the shipyard.
It was earlier reported that Austal was in consortium with the private US equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for a planned takeover of Hanjin from its South Korean former operators.
The Board of Investments earlier denied reports that Chinese firms were interested in taking over Hanjin.
On the sidelines of the Navy’s change-of-command ceremony on Monday in which Bacordo took the helm as the Flag Officer-in-Command, he told reporters that he was not privy to the status of the bidding for the shipyard, or the identities of the bidders.
However, outgoing Navy chief Robert Empedrad, during his command relinquishment speech, mentioned the “possible acquisition next month of a 100-hectare modern strategic naval base from Hanjin facilities in Subic.”
Bacordo said he could not comment on what Empedrad said. – Rappler.com