Palace says it's still speculative whether Chinese firms to invest in Hanjin
Malacanang downplayed on Monday concern over the possible Chinese companies' takeover of Hanjin Philippines, saying it is still speculative.
While former Philippine Navy chief Alexander Pama, in his Facebook post, did not mention China, he warned the government that the development involving Hanjin is also a "significant security issue" amid reports at least two Chinese companies have expressed interest to invest in the troubled shipbuilding firm.
"It's still speculation that they will takeover (Hanjin). When a company declares bankruptcy, who will be interested to take it over?" Panelo said on Pama's warning.
The former Navy official said there could be a "danger" over the long run if Hanjin would "fall into the wrong hands," apparently referring to the Chinese firms.
"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! The ownership of Hanjin shipyard in Subic Bay will give the owners unlimited access to one of our most strategic geographic Naval and Maritime asset," he said.
While Hanjin is a commercial shipyard, Pama said, "nothing can prevent the owners from making it into a de-facto Naval base and a maritime facility for other security purposes! Let us all be aware and wary of the serious security and other strategic implications of this issue!"
Hanjin Philippines is a local unit of the South Korean shipbuilder.
Panelo said, "Why are we not concerned with the other countries, but we're concerned of China?"
He added there was no issue if the Chinese firms interested to invest in Hanjin were those which the government had dealt with before.
"(But) if we are not familiar (with the Chinese companies), we have to vet so that we could know," said Panelo, also the chief presidential legal counsel.
The Philippines has a territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea. Beijing has been occupying areas in the West Philippine Sea even if they are within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The Department of Trade and Industry earlier said two Chinese companies were among those interested to invest in Hanjin, which has asked the court to help in its rehabilitation to pay its debt of some $412 million to five banks.
Meanwhile, in the same press briefing, Panelo said it would be up to the Department of Defense to check the report by a foreign think-tank of the presence of Chinese government vessels and fishermen in the Philippine-claimed Mischief (Panganiban) Reef and Subi (Zamora) Reef in the South China Sea.
"I'm sure that whoever is authorized to oversee those areas, they know what to do if they see that there is a security threat," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS