Made in China’ target ship now a fish shelter after ‘Balikatan’

‘Made in China’ target ship now a fish shelter after ‘Balikatan’ simulation

/ 01:38 AM May 09, 2024

‘Made in China’ target ship now a fish shelter after ‘Balikatan’ simulation

Former BRP Lake Caliraya about 15 kilometers away from Laoag City, moments before its destruction brought about by the airstrikes and naval missile assault of Manila and Washington’s assets. PHOTO: THE AFP

LAOAG CITY, Philippines — Lasting for about 16 years, the former BRP Lake Caliraya, which had been a former vessel of the state-run fuel company before it became a naval ship, now assumes a seemingly permanent role of being a shelter for fishes here.

The Chinese-made oil tanker last spotted about 15 kilometers away from the city’s shore, is now about 1,500 feet below sea level, according to Lt. Col. Omar Abdullah Al Assaf, the maritime strike lead planner for this year’s Balikatan.


READ: US, PH begin striking ‘Made in China’ mock target ship near Taiwan


Al Assaf noted that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources only requires depth of up to 1,000 feet.

“[The depth] is beyond any diver’s reach … so it’s safe, and it will serve as a shelter for fishes,” Al Assaf said in a chance interview after the activity.

READ: Military drills meant to prepare PH for West PH Sea defense – US general


First completed in 2008, the oil tanker was first commissioned as MT Lapu-lapu for the Philippine National Oil Company.

In 2014, it was donated to the Philippine navy which commissioned it under the name of BRP Lake Caliraya, before decommissioning it in 2020.

On July 13, 2023, the oil tanker was supposed to be used as a mock target for a bilateral marine exercise of Manila and Washington, but the drills were cancelled then due to inclement weather. The day after that, it ran aground off Bataan, but an American contractor retrieved the ship to be used for this year’s Balikatan’s maritime strike.


READ: Target ship en route to PH-US military maneuvers runs aground in Bataan

Final mission as floating ship

The former BRP Lake Caliraya represented an enemy force approaching Philippine territory.

Naval and air assets of the United States and Philippine military struck the ship for more than two hours, with Manila’s howitzers finishing the job.

“It was already sinking and with a few rounds from the Army artillery, the ship really sank to the bottom of the sea,” Al Assaf noted.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the main objective of the drills was not to sink the ship at once but to “strike the target vessel all day” for maximum training value.

‘Symbolic resistance’

A maritime security expert said the successful sinking of Chinese-made former BRP Lake Caliraya showed “symbolic resistance” of the Philippines against China’s aggression.

“The successful maritime strike using a made in China ship shows the symbolic resistance of the Philippines to Beijing’s aggression,” said Chester Cabalza, president and founder of Manila-based think tank International Development and Security Cooperation, in a message to

“The China ship becomes the subject and object of outlaw in the norm-setting of maritime legal order trying to reverse the present world order of customary international laws,” Cabalza added.

The Philippine Navy’s resupply activity of BRP Sierra Madre grounded in Ayungin Shoal and the government’s humanitarian activities in Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal become the flashpoint of tensions between Manila and Beijing.

Beijing asserts sovereignty in the entire South China Sea—including most of the West Philippine Sea—despite the July 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling which effectively invalidated its claims based on a case filed by Manila in 2013.

The Balikatan drills such as the maritime strike are part of preparations to protect the country’s interests in the West Philippine Sea, according to Lt. Gen. Michael Cederholm, commanding general of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force.

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“This is more on being ready. With or without war, we prepare for it. It’s our job,” said Al Assaf.

TAGS: Balikatan, BRP Lake Caliraya, Omad Abdullah Al Assaf

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