Beijing Sees Red as Philippines Plans to Sink De-commissioned Chinese Origin Ship in Exercise

Chinese state-controlled media labeled it as a "ridiculous stunt" and accused the Philippines of turning itself into a "joke" in the region
  • bureau
  • 10:19 AM, April 24, 2024
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Beijing Sees Red as Philippines Plans to Sink De-commissioned Chinese Origin Ship in Exercise
Global Times cartoon accompanying a report condemning Manila's sinking of a Chinese-made ship.

China has expressed its displeasure with the Philippines' decision to sink the decommissioned oil tanker BRP Lake Caliraya during this year's Balikatan exercises, which involve Filipino and American soldiers.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, spokesperson for the Philippine Navy (PN) in the West Philippine Sea, responded to China's criticism by stating that the sinking exercise was not intended to provoke. He made these remarks after China labeled the action as provocative in an April 20 editorial by its state-run English newspaper, Global Times.

The report labeled it as a "ridiculous stunt" and accused Manila of turning itself into a "joke" in the region by attempting to downplay the provocative nature of its actions.

It noted that the U.S. and the Philippines would conduct exercises for the first time in disputed areas beyond 12 nautical miles from Philippine territorial waters. The Philippine Coast Guard would deploy six vessels for this exercise for the first time. Additionally, the navies of the Philippines, the U.S., and France would conduct trilateral joint patrols for the first time. Compared to the staged nature of the "sinking exercise," the several "firsts" touted by the U.S. and the Philippines pose a substantive threat to regional stability, which should lead regional countries to maintain high vigilance, the report said.

The Global Times claimed that BRP Lake Caliraya, built in a Chinese shipyard for the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), symbolized past cooperation between China and the Philippines. The PNOC had donated the vessel, formerly known as M/T Lapulapu, to the Navy in 2014.

Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr., PN flag-officer-in-command, defended the sinking, asserting that the vessel had been in Philippine service for a considerable period, downplaying any significance of its origin from China.

"There’s no issue with that. The vessel has been used in the Philippines (for a) long long time so any attachment to China—if ever there’s any—it doesn’t matter at all,” Adaci commented during a press briefing at Navy headquarters in Manila. He noted that using decommissioned Navy ships in such exercises is customary worldwide.

Simultaneously, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported monitoring 124 assorted Chinese ships across seven locations in the West Philippine Sea from April 16 to 22. This fleet included 110 "Chinese Maritime Militia Vessels" (CMMVs), 11 China Coast Guard Vessels (CCGVs), and three Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships.

The distribution of these vessels included: seven CCGVs and 31 CMMVs near Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal); three CCGVs and 28 CMMVs near Ayungin Shoal; one PLAN vessel, one CCGV, and 44 CMMVs near Pagasa Island; three CMMVs near Parola Island; one PLAN vessel near Lawak Island; four CMMVs near Panata Island; and one PLAN vessel near Patag Island.

During the same briefing, Commodore Trinidad noted that the influx of CMMVs coincided with the start of the annual "Balikatan" exercises between the AFP and U.S. military forces. He observed a notable increase in maritime militia presence in areas like Bajo de Masinloc and Pagasa compared to previous weeks, where sightings ranged from 50 to 110 Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.