Subic Bay, which lies around 100 kilometers northwest of Manila Bay, is an area around the size of Singapore. It was previously operated by the navies of Spain and the United States, and was one of the world's largest U.S. naval facilities. After closing in the early 1990s, it was transformed into a special economic zone by the Philippine government.
Two Chinese firms have expressed interest in taking the shipyard off Hanjin Philippines' hands, prompting swift action from Manila officials who indicated they were unsettled by that idea as Beijing continues to flex its muscles in the South China Sea.
Senator Grace Poe has called for an inquiry to determine whether there needs to be legal and regulatory frameworks for foreign ownership of such a strategic national asset, local media reported.
Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he had met with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the prospect of the Philippine Navy acquiring the shipbuilding business.
"The Philippine Navy suggested that, why not the Philippines take over so that we'll have a naval base there? Then we'll have shipbuilding capabilities," international media quoted Lorenzana as saying during an event at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines last week.
That's an entirely realistic scenario, analysts said.
"It would be consistent with political initiatives to increase domestic industrial development," said Zoe Stanley Lockman, associate research fellow specializing in defense and security at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. She said there's currently a bill on the country's Senate floor that, if passed, would increase support for the defense industry, large parts of which are already government owned and operated.