03 December 2014

‘Hanjin town’ bracing for impact of development

CASTILLEJOS, Zambales—This third-class municipality is now expecting more benefits from business investments that accompany the growth of Hanjin, the South Korean company that has established a successful shipbuilding operation at the Subic Bay Freeport’s Redondo Peninsula.

While the Hanjin shipyard is geographically in Subic town, it is Castillejos, Subic’s next-door neighbor, that has experienced the most dramatic development impact from the growth of the Hanjin shipyard over the years.

“Since Hanjin started building its facility in 2006, Castillejos has experienced its biggest economic boom ever,” remarked Mayor Jose Angelo Dominguez last week, as he appeared at a dental and medical outreach project conducted by the shipbuilding company at the Hanjin Village here.

He said that, in particular, the influx of Hanjin workers—about 25,000 at last count—had resulted in the booming of businesses here in Castillejos, which is now easily the biggest “bedroom community” for shipyard workers.

Dominguez said most of the workers at Hanjin came to settle at Castillejos because the main road they take to their job site passes through the town’s Barangay Balaybay. The number of settlers increased faster in 2012 when Hanjin built its low-cost housing project here at Barangay Nagbunga.

“Balaybay and Nagbunga are now the biggest barangays in our town in terms of population,” Dominguez said. “The workers sleep here, so houses, apartments and rooms for rent flourished. Then, they also buy their food and other household needs here, so local businesses are growing,” the mayor added.

According to town records, Castillejos has experienced the biggest population growth spurt after Hanjin started operation.

In 2000 the town, which has the smallest land area among the 13 towns in Zambales, had a population of only 33,108. In 2007 when the Hanjin shipyard opened, the population of Castillejos rose to 42,910, with a growth rate of 3.64 percent yearly.

Just three years after, in 2010, the town’s population was already 48,845, with the growth rate now registering 4.83 percent.

The coming of Hanjin also coincided with the establishment here of the town’s first automatic teller machine booths, first mini-shopping mall, first restaurant franchise and first 7-Eleven convenience store, said Bernie Chiong, the mayor’s secretary.

In areas where most Hanjin workers rent their rooms, food stalls and videoke bars have also sprung up, adding to the income of local entrepreneurs, Chiong noted. He also said that, with more Hanjin workers in town, the shops in Castillejos now remain open until midnight, when these used to close at 5 p.m. owing to slow business.

Aside from providing economic benefits, Hanjin also regularly undertakes health and education outreach projects, Dominguez said, adding that the company even put up a new public elementary school at the Hanjin Village in time for the opening of classes this year.

“If this economic boom continues, Castillejos may eventually grow to become a city, thanks to Hanjin,” Dominguez added. (Henry Empeño, BusinessMirror)