By Janina C. Lim

CLAIMS against Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines, Inc. (HHIC-Phil) now total about $1.71 billion, according to a recent interview with the firm’s rehabilitation receiver who cited latest assessments and said she has yet to receive a “firm” business proposal.

In an April 5 mobile phone message, HHIC-Phil’s Rehabilitation Receiver lawyer Rosario S. Bernaldo said “regular claims, which include validated and those with lacking documents, amounted to $975 million, while contingent claims amount to around $735 million.”

She confirmed the amounts last week.

Of the regular claims, some $450 million consist of obligations to local banks, Ms. Bernaldo said.

Initial estimates after an Olongapo court placed HHIC-Phil under rehabilitation in January put the company’s liabilities to local banks at a total of $412 billion: $140 million to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., $80 million to state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines, $72 million to Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., as well as $60 million each to Bank of the Philippine Islands and BDO Unibank, Inc.

HHIC-Phil’s contingent claims are covered by contracts that entitle a payoff under certain conditions.

The April 12 deadline for the final registry of claims has lapsed but Ms. Bernaldo said she is still open to receiving those with complete supporting documents to prove delivery of services to HHIC-Phil.

Kung talagang may utang di ka naman prevent na di ka maka-claim just because di ka nakapasok sa deadline. Pero di ka na makaka-participate sa proceedings I guess by the time we approve the rehab plan di na pwede humabol yung iba (If you are owed money, you should not be prevented from filing a claim just because you did not beat a deadline. You just cannot take part in proceedings… I guess by the time we approve the rehab plan, those that have not yet filed a claim by then will no longer be able to do so),” Ms. Bernaldo said in an April 5 telephone interview.

Ms. Bernaldo said reaching out to creditors abroad and hiring translators to interpret contracts written in Korean complicates her work.

At the same time, she said she is “very optimistic” that the company will not have to undergo liquidation, citing inquiries she, creditor-banks and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Development Authority have been getting from potential white knights.

Dalawa talaga yung makikita mong (There are two that are really) interested… in advanced stage na, meaning [we have met] three times na nagkita as they have to do due diligence pa. They have to bring experts to see [the shipyard’s] physical, technical capabilities,” Ms. Bernaldo added.

She noted the most interested firms were based in the Netherlands and the United States.

In a roundtable discussion with reporters last week, Trade Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Group Ceferino S. Rodolfo mentioned three firms, namely: the Damen Group from the Netherlands, the Naval Group from France and a company from the United States whose name he could not recall, as committing to come back with business proposals.

However, Ms. Bernaldo said “wala pang nag-submit ng firm proposal, ’yun ’yung kailangan ko eh (no one has submitted a firm proposal, which is what I need).”

On Monday, she confirmed via text message: “Wala pa akong nare-receive na (I have not received any) formal proposal from investors.”

“They are still conducting technical due diligence and forming consortiums.”

“It is the interest of the financial creditors na mabilis makakahanap (we promptly find a white knight) because, otherwise, if ubos na pera (if HHIC-Phl runs out of working capital), they (banks) have to maintain it. They have to see to it na babayaran mga tao na nandun (they pay those) who are maintaining it,” Ms. Bernaldo had said on April 5, adding there are 30 workers left to maintain the Subic shipyard.

Besides repaying the loans, the white knight has to pay for a working capital to keep the company in operations. A top official of HHIC-Phil, who asked not to be named, had said that the company will need $12 million monthly to continue operations.

The firm’s operations now remain suspended as HHIC-Phil negotiates for an arrangement with suppliers for it to complete six more vessels in various construction stages, according to Ms. Bernaldo.

Firms eyeing a takeover of HHIC-Phil include International Container Terminal Services, Inc. which said it plans to convert the shipyard into a “multi-purpose” facility.