The colorful history of BRP Ang Pangulo

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — One of the perks of being the president of the Philippines is the privilege of sailing on a yacht, the Rolls-Royce of the seas.

But presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday (May 15) would have none of that and announced plans to sell the presidential yacht, BRP Ang Pangulo.

Duterte said the proceeds will go to war veterans, hospital facilities, and doctors' salaries.

Selling the yacht may make sense considering its costly upkeep. This year, the Philippine Navy's budget for its repair and maintenance amounts to P32 million.

This is not the first time a president tried to sell the yacht. Cory Aquino, who wanted to do away with the previous administration's lavishness, put the ship up for sale for $5.5 million in 1986. But it had no takers.

Then and now: BRP Ang Pangulo

The BRP Ang Pangulo, now 57 years old, has been in the service for seven presidents, from Carlos P. Garcia to Benigno Aquino III. From its conception at a Japanese shipyard to its stint as a naval vessel, the presidential yacht has lived a colorful life.

The 77.33 meter-long, 2,200-ton ship arrived in February 1959 as part of Japan's war reparations for the Philippines. Carlos P. Garcia, the first president to use it, designated it as the flagship of the Philippine Navy on Valentine's Day 1959.

Under Garcia, the ship joined the Philippine Fleet in Manila, completed a trade and cultural expo around Asia, and proceeded to serve a variety of functions, mainly for emergency and relief operations.

The ship had its share of fun, too. When the Marcoses were in power, they hosted lavish yacht parties attended by the likes of Hollywood actress Brooke Shields and Cristina Ford, wife of the car mogul.

In 1995, when Philippine and Chinese relations were beginning to sour over a disputed reef off Palawan, Fidel Ramos entertained Chinese president Jiang Zemin on the yacht. They sang Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" as they cruised around Manila Bay.

Under Joseph Estrada, the ship served as a floating Malacañang and, according to Chavit Singson, also as a mahjong parlor. He alleged that Estrada once won millions of pesos in a game they played aboard the ship.

When Gloria Arroyo was president in 2006, the ship caught fire while undergoing repairs at Batangas Port. The ship incurred minor damage but the fire injured four people.

President Aquino has used it as a floating office and later deployed it as part of the Philippine Fleet.

Many names

The presidential yacht has had several name changes throughout its almost 60-year history.

Carlos P. Garcia originally named it RPS Lapu-Lapu after the Filipino hero who defeated Ferdinand Magellan.

Diosdado Macapagal, who never sailed on the ship, renamed it to RPS Roxas in honor of Manuel Roxas, the fifth Philippine president and his fellow Liberal Party member.

Ferdinand Marcos, instead of naming it after another president, simply called it RPS The President. Later, he renamed it BRP Ang Pangulo and created an official seal for the ship.

Gloria Arroyo renamed it BRP Pag-Asa in 2009 to embody its role as a calamity-response vessel.

Aquino restored the name BRP Ang Pangulo in 2011 "to continue the heritage and carry the honor and prestige of the Philippine presidency.”

From ship to yacht

Before BRP Ang Pangulo, there were four other ships used by the president, namely The Apo, The Cassiana/Banahaw, The Orchid, and The Apo II.

The Apo was a steam-powered yacht from Kinghorn, Scotland. Used for some time as a U.S. naval vessel, it was decommissioned at Manila in 1921 and was later transferred to the Spanish-run Philippine government. It became the official yacht of the American Governor-General to be used for inspection voyages. The Apo was returned to the U.S. Federal Government in 1932.

Next came the Casiana, an oil-burning yacht purchased by oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny. He named it after his first major oil well in Mexico. In 1936, the Philippine Commonwealth acquired it for $50,000 and it arrived in Manila in November that year. Originally reserved for the presidential family, the Casiana was renamed Banahaw and became part of the Coast Guard. On December 1941, it was bombed by the Japanese and sunk off Fort Mills, Corregidor.

The Orchid, a 190-foot ship, was used by President Manuel Roxas during his term. The ship was commissioned to the U.S. Lighthouse Service, which followed a tradition of naming its ships after flowers. Along with Anemone, Sequioa, and The Tulip, The Orchid was decommissioned and transferred to the Philippines in 1945.

The Apo II became known as Dalisay, Pagasa, Santa Maria, Corregidor, Incorruptible, and Mount Samat during its 11-year lifespan. After being launched in 1944, the minesweeper was commissioned to the U.S. Navy and received two battle stars during World War II. In 1948, the decommissioned ship arrived in the Philippines, where it was used as the presidential vessel before being replaced by today's BRP Ang Pangulo. Sometimes it was used as an alternative ship. Unfortunately, The Apo II sunk off Sangley Point, Cavite on September 21, 1993.

Now that the BRP Ang Pangulo is nearing its final days, will it be replaced by a new presidential vehicle — a jet ski or a Harley Davidson, perhaps?