Subic shipyard will strengthen

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

Philippine Navy Last Thursday, we joined the US-Philippines Society to Subic together with Defense Secretary Del Lorenzana, Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea and Secretary Vince Dizon to visit the former Hanjin shipyard, now known as Agila Subic.

It took us almost three years to finally complete the agreements for the acquisition of the Subic facility by US-based equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. We had a discussion with then-White House Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger about the shipyard that had been abandoned by South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries that declared bankruptcy in 2019 – leaving many of our banks exposed with more than $412 million in debts.

The White House during the administration of President Donald Trump was interested to see how the shipyard could be saved and put to good use without necessarily using it as a naval base. The interest was mostly centered on how the former biggest US naval base in the Pacific could provide a docking and repair facility for US ships. What was important for us was that it could become economically viable again, as it will become a multi-use facility not only for shipbuilding and repairs but also for warehousing and logistics services. Aside from the US, other countries such as Australia and Japan could also use the shipyard for repairs.

We actually hit two birds with one stone in the acquisition of Hanjin by Cerberus. For one, it will generate thousands of jobs that have been lost (hitting 30,000 at the height of Hanjin’s operations) not only from Agila’s operations but from future tenants that will mostly be private companies. Just as importantly, the shipyard   will provide a secure and suitable berthing facility for our Philippine Navy which is leasing the northern portion and occupying about 250 acres of the over 700-acre facility.

The Philippine Navy was our host during our visit and we were very pleased that the activation and subsequent operation of the Naval Operations Base in Subic will play a major role in the country’s military modernization efforts, particularly in strengthening and transforming the Philippine Navy into a multi-capable naval force.

Putting the Hanjin project together and seeing it come to its successful conclusion had not been easy, but working with the US on this project underscores the strong alliance between our two nations not only in the aspect of security but in terms of economic, trade and investment prospects – which are also core purposes of the US-Philippines Society.

Last Tuesday, we hosted a reception to welcome the US-Philippines Society and we were honored to have president-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and the incoming first lady Mrs. Liza Araneta Marcos as our special guests of honor. At the reception, president-elect Marcos described the relationship between the US and the Philippines as “not a unidimensional one,” having done so many things at many different levels, the most obvious one being security as well as economic trade, and “even in education, culture and in all of the different aspects of our lives,” he said.

“The new world that we will define amongst ourselves is going to be a bright future for all of our countries. So, let us work towards that,” president-elect Marcos concluded.

‘Who’s who’ in BBM’s inauguration

We were very pleased to hear that special envoys from various countries will be coming over to witness the historic event – with thousands of personnel from the military, police and other law enforcement agencies going to be deployed.

If one can recall, the first head of state to congratulate the president-elect was US president Joe Biden, who called from Air Force One while he was flying from Chicago on the way to Washington, D.C. at about 8:30 a.m. on May 11 (US time).

During the conversation, president-elect Bongbong Marcos invited the US president to attend his inauguration, for which President Biden was appreciative and thankful.

President Biden had considered sending Vice President Kamala Harris and even former president George Bush to lead the US delegation, but in the end, it was decided that it would be Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who has often traveled to represent the US administration for important events abroad. In fact, SGOTUS Emhoff was chosen to lead the US delegation that attended the inauguration of South Korea’s new president Yoon Suk-yeol last May.

Vice President Kamala Harris and the Second Gentleman have become close personal friends of both President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. VP Kamala Harris and SGOTUS Emhoff frequently have dinners or lunches at the White House on a regular basis since last year.

Second Gentleman Emhoff can be described as a high-level, personal envoy representing President Biden during the inauguration of president-elect Bongbong Marcos, underscoring the importance that the US places on the Philippines as an ally.

High-ranking officials from other countries who have confirmed their attendance to the inauguration include Vice President Wang Qishan of China (considered to be one of the closest aides to President Xi Jinping); Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi; Australia’s Governor-General David Hurley (who is technically like the president); Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai; Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato Sri Saifuddin Abdullah; the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy and Minister of Parliament Richard Graham; South Korea’s People Power Party floor leader Kweon Seong-Dong (who is a close aide of President Yoon Suk-yeol); Singapore’s Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and Lao PDR’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune.

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