WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos (1st from left) with Filipino troops securing Rizal Reef in the West Philippine Sea on July 16, 2022. (Photo from Western Command)

Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, commander of Western Command (WESCOM), visited Rizal Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) over the weekend aboard the BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS 17) while it was conducting “sovereignty patrol”.

Carlos joined the Del Pilar-class ship’s initial maritime patrol in the disputed region and arrived on Rizal Reef (also Commodore Reef) on Saturday, July 16, days after departing from the Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST) detachment in Oyster Bay, Puerto Princesa City.

The journey was part of BRP Andres Bonifacio’s initial territory defense tasks following the completion of its necessary repairs and maintenance inspections, which Carlos personally saw on the first week of July.

WESCOM Public Affairs Office (PAO) officer-in-charge, Cpt. Reynaldo Aragones Jr., told Palawan News that Carlos spoke with Filipino troops stationed on Rizal Reef, which is roughly 110 nautical miles west of the island town of Balabac, to check how they’re doing as they safeguard the Philippine-claimed feature.

Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos (1st from left), commander of WESCOM, speaks with Filipino troops stationed at the Rizal Reef detachment of the Philippine Navy, Armed Forces of the Philippines, in the West Philippine Sea. (Photo from Western Command)

“Isa sa mga tungkulin niya bilang commander ay masigurado na nasa maayos na kalagayan at mapunan ang mga pangangailangan ng kanyang mga tropa saan mang sulok o isla ng kanyang nasasakupan,” Aragones said.

“Sa katunayan niyan, nitong nakaraan na June 12, Araw ng Kalayaan, si VAdm. Carlos mismo rin ang pumunta sa sa Pag-asa Island upang bisitahin ang mga tropa natin. Siya rin ang nagtaas ng ating bandila sa isla,” he added.

The reef, which appears as two atolls, is submerged, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are in charge of the facilities and buildings there under WESCOM’s purview.

Carlos’ descent on Rizal Reef was deemed “very rare” by the AFP, since aviators like himself, a navy grey eagle, often drop provisions to Filipino troops.

“Notably, it’s very rare for naval aviators of the Philippine Navy to set foot at Rizal Reef. They usually drop provisions such as but not limited to food, water, medicines, and other supplies for its contingent by air. VAdm. Carlos is also known among pilots as the Navy’s Grey Eagle being a naval aviator himself,” Aragones said.