Business & Economy

Ex-Navy chief sounds alarm on possible Chinese takeover of Subic shipyard

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MANILA, Philippines — A former Philippine Navy chief has sounded the alarm over the security and strategic implications on the prospect of a Chinese takeover of a commercial shipyard in Subic.

His statements came after two Chinese firms have reportedly expressed interest to invest on the local unit of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp., currently struggling in massive debt.

“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!” former Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“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.

Pama served as Navy chief from 2011 to 2012, at a time when the Philippines was strongly critical of China’s massive claims in the South China Sea.

Subic Bay, a former US military base until it closed in 1992, is located about 260 kilometers from the Chinese-occupied Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). It is also the safest and nearest port facing the disputed waterway.

When the Americans left, it was transformed into an industrial hub. Naval ships of foreign countries, including the US, conduct port calls there from time to time.

The biggest Philippine Navy ships also take shelter at Subic.

If China gains access to the shipyard, the former Navy chief expressed concern that it could later serve different purposes.

“Baka pag nagpa-patrol ang Chinese Coast Guard sa Scarborough, dyan na sila nagpapahinga, mag-re-repair at mag reprovision,” he told Inquirer.net.

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