By Bernadette D. Nicolas & Samuel P. Medenilla, January 29 2019; Business Mirror
Image Credit to Business Mirror
THE government sees itself forging within the first quarter a more concrete position on its plans for debt-saddled Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. Philippines (HHIC-Phil).
HHIC-Phil is the local subsidiary of the Korean shipbuilder whose plea to be placed under receivership has been granted by a court. “Maybe first quarter, we’ll have a more concrete position because, again, government is the last resort. We’re not obliged to take over that,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on the sidelines of the Dutertenomics 2.0 attended by the country’s economic managers.
While the plans on the financial bailout remain unclear, the government has been moving, though, on efforts to find new job opportunities for displaced workers.
As early as this week, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it will be able to determine new employment options for the over 3,800 remaining Hanjin workers.
DOLE will be meeting the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Clark Development Corp. and Philippine Economic Zone Authority to discuss the job options.
Meanwhile, DTI’s Lopez said that since last week they have been proactively offering Hanjin as an option for interested parties in shipbuilding to come in.
“Since Hanjin happened already, we are now actively offering (them) that we have this opportunity here. Would there be any interested shipbuilders out there? We have given that signal to some embassies already,” he said.
Lopez also noted during the press conference that interested parties will be given two options, whether they start from zero or acquire Hanjin’s assets.
“If you assume liability of $400 million, you probably get the entire asset of over $1 billion by assuming liabilities. So this offers now a new proposition for any shipbuilder abroad that will intend to enter into the Philippines,” he said.
According to Lopez, the more immediate ones on the list of countries interested in shipbuilding are the United States, Japan, Korea and China.
However, there was no response yet to DTI’s move as Lopez clarified that companies from these countries made their interest known even before the Hanjin issue came out.
He noted that companies take a month or two to conduct due diligence before deciding to pursue their next business move.
Lopez said they expected that “by the first quarter some of the companies interested to look into Hanjin or enter into shipbuilding industry in the Philippines… probably will have already the results of their studies. It’s not really government selecting it. It’s a private-sector decision.”
But he said even during the rehabilitation plan of Hanjin, interested investors or a white knight can be assisted by the government to make the process easier for Hanjin.
Meanwhile, the government will hold a job fair in Subic on February 9 to provide opportunity or complementary jobs for those displaced due to Hanjin’s failure, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has also said the state-of-the-art facilities of the HHIC-Phil may be considered as an option for the establishment of an eco-industrial maritime park for the clustering and consolidation of all maritime-related services.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said the economic managers are looking at various options to help save Hanjin, such as the government financially assisting the “white knight” that is interested to take over Hanjin in Subic.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III also said the government is ready to help Hanjin creditors in line with addressing the company’s debt problem.
The BusinessMirror, in an exclusive story, earlier reported that Hanjin filed for corporate rehabilitation on January 8 at the Olongapo Regional Trial Court, seeking protection from creditors to which it owed $412 million.
The Department of National Defense also said that it favors the proposal for the government to take over the shipbuilding facility so that it can use its site as a major naval base while supplying the government’s requirement for military and civilian ships.
DOLE earlier said opportunities for displaced Hanjin workers will be mostly construction-related.
“Hopefully, we could give to these companies the profile of the workers of Hanjin so they get new employment,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III told reporters in an ambush interview on Monday.
Last Thursday, DOLE-Region 3 Dir. Zenaida A. Campita said they completed the profiling of HHIC-Phil workers earlier this month.
Some of the remaining HHIC-Phil employees are expected to be displaced by next month—earlier than DOLE’s previous pronouncement that it will happen by March.
“We are confident we will be able to provide them new jobs, especially since they are highly skilled,” Bello said. Members of the Samahan ng Manggagawa ng Hanjin (SMH), who were among those facing retrenchment, met with Bello on Monday to relay their concerns.
Their concerns include getting their separation pay, return of their “employment bond,” as well as possible cash subsidy from the government, and moratorium on their housing payments.
SMH President Efren Vinluan said Bello satisfactorily addressed all the concerns during their meeting.
While SMH workers still hope the financially troubled HHIC-Phil can resume operations under a new management, its workers are bracing for a shutdown.
“We just hope the alternative employment will be appropriate for our skills,” Vinluan said.
Although some local, Japanese and Chinese companies have expressed interest in taking over the Zambales-based shipyard, Bello said none have formalized their intent.