Nation’s seas’ tough vanguard

Best of both worlds Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos has the unique background of graduating from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and had completed his General Staff Course at the Naval Command College-People’s Liberation Army-Navy in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China. | Photograph courtesy of Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos

The Philippine Navy has as motto: “Non sibi sed patria” (Not self but country).

Truly, the naval force lives with this line as they sail in a boundless and dark ocean with a mission to defend the country and protect the nation from external threats.

Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos is one of who can be considered as shepherds of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, leading and guiding navy personnel in naval and maritime operations within the country’s territorial waters.

In April 2021, Carlos was the concurrent Commander of the Philippine Fleet, an attached unit of the Philippine Navy. Prior to his stint in the Fleet, he was the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. He also used to head the Naval Combat Engineering Brigade.

Carlos became popular for his “Mission First, Men Always” doctrine. For his staff, he was good at taking path unprecedented changes in operational readiness while at the hand of mission accomplishment.

He also pushed for the facilities’ improvement as well as the enrichment of the morale and welfare of Fleet sailors and aviators under his guidance.

In January 2022, former President Rodrigo Duterte named Carlos as the new chief of the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, where he brought his kind of leadership doctrine.

As WesCom chief, Carlos became an exemplary leader for pushing what he called “Western and Eastern” experiences when managing the internal and external concerns that affect the peace and stability in the Western Command area of operations.

He also pushed for harmonization of actions of all military forces in the command to sustain the AFP’s gain in protecting the sovereignty and integrity of Philippine territory.

Carlos belongs to the Philippine Military Academy “Makatao” Class of 1989.

PMA then sent him to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated in 1989 with a BS Degree in Computer Science, with merit.

Carlos likewise completed his General Staff Course at the Naval Command College-People’s Liberation Army-Navy in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China in 2008.

He is the younger brother of former Philippine National Police chief, General Dionardo Carlos.

Among his thrusts as WesCom commander is to protect the territorial sovereignty and the country’s sovereign rights as well as to help the rules-based international order concerning the WPS.

“I would like to comply with all the to protect national interest in my area of operations,” he said.

Increased tempo, protecting WPS

Carlos said the Western Command has increased its operational tempo in parallel to the country’s shift to external defense operations.

“Once we shift to external operations, the Western Command will at the. Forefront,” he noted.

The WesCom, he said, is committed to further increasing the tempo and showing the AFP’s stronger resolve to exercise our jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea, as he confirmed that they monitored a large number of foreign vessels in the area.

“We’re also coordinating very closely with the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries as well as the Filipino fishing community to increase their presence in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Carlos sees that the more Philippine watercraft sailing in the area, the more it shows that the country has a very strong resolve for its sovereign rights in WPS.

The WesCom is currently manning the nine
island-detachment in the WPS including Ayungin shoal, islands of Pag-asa (Thitu), Lawak (Nanshan Cay), Parola (Northeast Cay), Patag ( Flat), Kota (Loaita), Likas (West of York) and Panata (Lankiam Cay) and Rizal (Commodore) Reef.

“Our actions in the West Philippines are rules-based. Our mandate is to protect and defend, but more importantly to keep the peace so that economic activities, international trade, and travel may carry on and ensure stability and economic prosperity,” he said.

Carlos credited each Wescom soldier for their bravery and determination to defend “what is definitely ours.”

“As the frontliner in enforcing the 2016 Arbitral ruling, let me assure the Filipino people that the AFP Western Command is the dominant force in protecting every inch of the country’s territory and the riches in our exclusive economic zone,” he added.

Aside from its security mandates, Carlos said WesCom is also working on the preservation of marine life and natural resources within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

Resolving WPS tension

Carlos said addressing the tension in the WPS needs a whole-of-nation approach.

“The resolution of conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea is not in the hands of the military alone. We are only part of the picture,” he said.

Carlos said dealing with the changing behavior of other countries in WPS requires more than just military resolve.

“We need military strength that parallels our resolve. On top of that, our action regarding WPS needs a well thought out strategy with a whole nation approach that takes into account all considerations, other than military,” he said.

Accomplishing a mission

Nearing his retirement, Carlos only wants the best for the military organization, especially all units that he previously handled.

“I like to keep it better. It was a better unit when arrived here — in terms of operations, people, and facility development. As I look back to all the units I was into, they are in better condition than when they first arrived there,” he said.

Carlos vowed to continue protecting the country’s western territory and contributing to the inter-agency collaboration of the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea.

He urged the Filipino community in the area to rally behind the AFP’s efforts to strengthen naval presence in all occupied islands in the WPS by also asserting their rights through fishing activities in the country’s territorial waters.

Carlos shares another principle: “Every Filipino has a stake in the West Philippine Sea and I know that we all share the resolve to keep the peace as much as we could and maintain order in its very un-still waters.”