The Philippine Navy (PN) is interested in occupying part of the facility of cash-strapped shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC-Phil) in Subic Bay, Zambales as a base for its strategic sealift vessels and other large naval ships.
“Our interest is to occupy part of Hanjin because Hanjin, that area (in Subic Bay) is blessed with a deep-sea harbor, right now, none of our strategic vessels can be accommodated in any of the Navy facilities,” PN flag-officer-in-command Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo J. Bacordo in an interview with reporters shortly after assuming command of the Navy Monday afternoon.
Bacordo was referring to the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) which are the biggest ships in the fleet weighing more than 7,000 gross register tons.
The PN chief added that Hanjin’s harbor has a minimum depth of about 10 meters which can accommodate the draft of the Tarlac-class landing docks and Del Pilar-class offshore patrol vessels and incoming frigates.
Draft refers to the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull or keel.
Drafts of the two Tarlac-class strategic sealift vessels are placed at five meters while the three Del Pilar offshore patrol vessels’ is at 8.75 meters while the two Jose Rizal-class frigates are at 6.9 meters.
“That is why we want to have Hanjin we have expressed our intention to the government that (a harbor capable of accommodating large ships) is a core requirement of the PN,” Bacordo added.
Aside from having a deep-sea harbor, the Hanjin facility is also protected by mountains and by Grande Island, he added. Other factors are the availability of skilled ship workers and fitters from Hanjin and the relative nearness of the facility to the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Zambales and other PN units and civilian maritime facilities and schools in the area.
Former PN chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad earlier said the Navy is planning to construct the base of its proposed submarine arm inside HHIC-Phil’s Subic Bay facility.
He said the plan will start once a new operator or partner has formally acquired the shipbuilding business of the South Korean firm.
The PN is looking to acquire two diesel-electric submarine units as part of its efforts to modernize its assets.
The Scorpene, which is being constructed by French defense manufacturer, Naval Group, is said to be on top of the list of preferred submarine platforms of the country and was evaluated by naval and defense officials last year.
HHIC-Phil has a total of USD1.3 billion outstanding loans — USD400 million from Philippine banks and USD900 million from South Korean lenders.
According to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), HHIC-Phil filed on Jan. 8, 2019, a petition at the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court “to initiate voluntary rehabilitation under Republic Act 10142, otherwise known as An Act Providing for the Rehabilitation or Liquidation of Financially Distressed Enterprises and Individuals”.
The shipbuilder has sought help from the government to find investors that can take over the operation of its shipyard in Subic, as well as to help its employees, who have taken the brunt of the company’s financial woes. PNA.GOV.PH