PAF pilot who discovered China’s ‘mischief’ now Centcom chief

Ryan Macasero

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PAF pilot who discovered China’s ‘mischief’ now Centcom chief
Major General Raul del Rosario was the first pilot to take photos of Chinese activity on Mischief Reef in the West Philippine Sea

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Philippine Air Force Major General Raul Del Rosario is the new chief of the Armed Forces’ Central Command (Centcom) in Cebu City, the unit responsible for security operations in the Visayas.

He took the helm on Thursday, August 11, to replace Air Force Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.

“It’s a big responsibility on my shoulders… [the Visayas] has become a center of commerce, trade, and industry. Thus, the importance of keeping it safe, secure, and stable,” Del Rosario said.

“The Visayas greatly influences the situation in Luzon and Mindanao. Being in the center, the Visayas absorbs any instability from all directions,” Del Rosario added.

Del Rosario was the Air Force pilot who discovered in 1994 the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef, one of the earlier actions taken by China to claim the West Philippine Sea. The maritime dispute is a source of an on-again off-again tension between the two countries.

He rose through the ranks and was appointed to crucial positions such as the AFP deputy chief of staff for plans (J5), a post he assumed when the government was negotiating the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US. He was a contender to become Air Force chief in March.

Del Rosario is expected to oversee increased US military presence following the identification of Mactan-Ebuen Benito Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City as one of the EDCA locations. The military-to-military agreement between the US and the Philippines was forged amid China’s aggressiveness in the region.

The military has not revealed its plans on this. “They’re still discussing and working on it,” Armed Forces chief General Ricardo Visaya told reporters in Cebu.

Del Rosario also takes the helm as President Rodrigo Duterte tags Cebu politicians for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade.

“We will take heed with the President’s campaign against drugs, criminality, and corruption, and will contribute our share the soonest,” Del Rosario said.

Duterte visited the camp last week to ask the military to allot space in their camps for the rehabilitation of drug dependents.

Visaya said that the AFP was willing to “work with local governments and the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in a supporting role” in the campaign against illegal drugs. 

According to a report in the Cebu Daily News, the Cebu City Council earlier passed a resolution asking the AFP to help the police with law enforcement operations in certain areas of the city.

Councilor Dave Tumulak, an author of the resolution, clarified that the resolution was not necessarily pushed to militarize the city. He said he was in touch with the AFP, which is willing to assist the city and police in anti-drug operations.

Tumulak explained: “Our main objective here is to increase peace and order in our city especially that we are enforcing curfew and anti-illegal drugs operations. We really need the military because the police are busy in running after drug pushers and users. We need them in streets to maintain safety.” –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at