Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, May 05, 2008

5,000 workers affected by suspension of Hanjin project

More than 5,000 workers of Hanjin Corp. in Misamis Oriental want their back wages following reports that their Korean employers have pulled out from the $2 billion shipyard project.

The laborers had toiled a week at Hanjin’s shipyard in the towns of Tagoloan and Villanueva when the corporation halted its operation over a row involving the firm's environmental permit.

Elmer Capadiso, one of the construction workers, said he has not earned anything for a week, so he decided to look for a job in another company. He, however, could not start in his new job since his tools are still locked inside the Hanjin site.

Scores of laborers flocked to the site for work when Hanjin started operating on April 18.

But now that operations have come to a halt, workers are worried they may not be able to get the pay they've worked for.

Myong Goo Kwon, Hanjin's managing director at the project site on the southern island of Mindanao, earlier said in a letter that the company was forced to halt work on the project due to an "improper and questionable" order from a government unit.

"The HHIC Mindanao's team for the shipyard complex project inside the PIA estate will withdraw effective April 29, 2008," Myong said in the letter to the state-owned Phividec Industrial Administration (PIA) last month.

Hanjin's Mindanao shipyard is being built on a 442-ha. lot inside the Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental. It was expected to be completed in 2017.

It is one of the biggest investments in the Philippines' troubled southern region, where Communist and Muslim insurgencies have stunted economic development.

The new facility will have a capacity of 830,000 tons per year when completed, generating 45,000 new jobs.

The mayors of two towns in Misamis Oriental province on the northern tip of Mindanao said they had ordered Hanjin to secure environmental clearances before it could clear some 400 hectares of coconut, corn and vegetable fields as well as some houses.

‘They will be back’

Meanwhile, Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno said he is confident that the Korean investors will eventually continue their operations.

Moreno was tasked by President Arroyo to head the task force that will try to convince the Koreans to resume their shipyard project in Misamis Oriental.

Moreno also appealed to other government agencies to help bring back the Koreans.

The Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce, however, said relations of the province’s local government with the Korean investors have been strained over the issue of corruption.

The Philippine National Police has already stepped into the controversy. It formed a special team to investigate alleged bribery, extortion and intimidation.

Paulino Emano, Tagoloan town mayor where Hanjin is building the shipyard, has claimed he was offered 400 million pesos ($9.4 million) by Hanjin officials to set aside the environmental clearance and allow them to continue with the project.

Hanjin, on the other hand, has filed complaints with the provincial governor alleging that local officials had intimidated company officials and staff.

Residents in the areas affected by the clearing said they hoped the project would continue.

"We are not against development because Hanjin will give us jobs anyway," said Eugene Payusan, leader of a workers' group hired by the South Korean shipyard to clear farms and residential areas.

"We are also fighting for the fair and just treatment of the affected households. There should be just compensation, not empty promises." With a report from Reuters

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