Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: Attack on China-made ship is part of 2024 Balikatan drills


This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

FACT CHECK: Attack on China-made ship is part of 2024 Balikatan drills
A YouTube video fails to mention that the sinking of BRP Lake Caliraya, decommissioned by the Philippine Navy in 2020, was part of a sinking activity for the annual military exercises

Claim: A Chinese ship was attacked and sunk by the combined forces of the Philippines and the United States.


Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video bearing the claim was posted on May 8, 2024, by a channel with 253,000 subscribers. As of writing, it has 33,000 views, 904 likes, and 180 comments. 

The video’s thumbnail bears the text: “Actual video pag-atake, barko ng China pinagbobomba” (Actual video of attack, China’s ship was bombed).

The bottom line: The “made in China” ship in the video was the BRP Lake Caliraya, a decommissioned tanker intentionally sunk during the 2024 Balikatan maritime drills. The simulated attack on the vessel, which served as a mock enemy ship, was intended to strengthen the Philippines’ maritime defenses in the West Philippine Sea.

The exercise was conducted on May 8 in waters off the coast of Laoag, Ilocos Norte, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces working together to sink the China-made ship. The BRP Lake Caliraya, formerly M/T Lapu-Lapu, was decommissioned in 2020.

The YouTube video did not mention that the sinking of the ship was part of the annual military exercises between the Philippines and the US, which started on April 22 and ended on May 10.

The Philippines conducted similar exercises during the 2023 Balikatan with sinking drills involving the BRP Pangasinan

No slight to China: Philippine officials earlier clarified that choosing the Chinese-made vessel for the sinking exercise was “purely coincidental” and was not intended to slight China. 

This was in response to an editorial published in the Chinese state-run media Global Times alleging that the attacks on BRP Lake Caliraya show “provocative intent” against China. However, it did not mention that the Chinese-made vessel had been scheduled to be part of a sinking activity since July 2023.


The Balikatan exercises were held amid China’s increasing “aggressive and deceptive actions” in the South China Sea and rising tensions with the Philippines. On April 30, Chinese Coast Guard vessels even blasted water cannons at a Philippine Coast Guard ship en route to Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) west of Zambales.

China continues to reject the 2016 Hague ruling dismissing its sweeping claims over the entire South China Sea.

Rappler has published several fact checks to clarify misconceptions about the 2024 Balikatan exercises:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. You may also report dubious claims to #FactsFirstPH tipline by messaging Rappler on Facebook or Newsbreak via Twitter direct message. You may also report through our Viber fact check chatbot. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!