Major General Arturo Rojas became the 36th Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) on May 8, 2023. A native of Koronadal City and a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1990, Rojas spent his early military career with the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT)-3, MBLT-9 and 61st Marine Force Reconnaissance Company. During this time, he specialized in special operations and was deployed to Sulu, Bulacan, Cotabato City, Quezon province, Basilan, Zamboanga, Kalinga, and Apayao. He spent three years with the Department of National Defense as a security officer and aide-de-camp to then Secretary Fortunato Abat and Secretary Orlando Mercado.
Rojas also completed various courses and training, to include the Basic Airborne and Jumpmaster’s Course, Scuba Course, Scout Ranger Course, Intelligence Officer Basic Course, Military Intelligence Collection Course, Explosive Ordnance Reconnaissance Agent Course, Sureshock Urban Warfare Course, Officers Psychological Operations Course, and several more. Rojas earned an MS in Defense Analysis (Special Operation/Low- Intensity Conflict) from NPS in 2004 and a Master in Public Management from the Development Academy of the Philippines in 2011. He has earned several awards and decorations throughout his military career.
Before his appointment as the Marine Commandant, Rojas was the commander of the Special Operations Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and previously served in command positions with the 2nd Marine Brigade and the Western Mindanao Command.
During the first-ever International NPS Alumni Symposium, you mentioned that your NPS education had a tremendous impact on your career. Could you elaborate on how your NPS experience contributed to your professional growth and the policy changes you've been a part of?
My NPS education/experience truly had a tremendous impact on my career. The NPS mindset I brought back home was and still is the greatest takeaway I got aside, of course, from the education and all the knowledge we all received from our courses and the whole community. It is the belief that I can learn, change and improve. The NPS mindset gave me the strength to overcome challenges by believing that as an alumni, I have what it takes to succeed.
Following my stint at NPS, I was assigned to different Marine Corps units and assignments because of the well-known reputation of NPS. Our leadership believed in my development and potential because I had completed NPS. I became more responsible, learned many things and developed new skills. Many good and challenging assignments followed. The Marine Corps placed me in important units including the Marine Corps Training Center. I saw myself assigned with Marine Battalions and Marine Special Operations Group. Because of my NPS education, I was able to contribute to developing their capabilities by developing doctrines, review organizational structures, improved training, leadership training, and facilities etc. It didn’t just improve my professional skills but expanded my understanding of operational effectiveness and how we, the AFP, can gain a warfighting advantage. It gave me a different perspective to look through when making policy changes. Some policy inputs that I have contributed to include the establishment of AFP Special Operations Command, Adhoc Maritime Interagency Border Command, Unified Command Campaign Plan, and more.
What were the benefits of attending the 2023 INDOPACOM Regional Alumni Symposium in Singapore? How did the Alumni Association’s evening events enhance the overall experience and outcomes of the symposium?
The 2023 INDOPACOM Regional Alumni Symposium in Singapore was invaluable. Beyond the formal sessions, the evening events by the Alumni Association were great for networking. It was a golden opportunity to meet fellow alumni, military professionals who share my passion for defense topics. Also, the speakers, staff, and experts presenting their research were eye-opening, exposing us to the latest in defense technology and strategies. This initiative must be sustained in the next iteration of the Regional Alumni Symposium.
In your current role as Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, what are your key priorities and goals for the future of the PMC, and how do you plan to address them?
As the Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, my top priority is preparedness. As the nation’s crisis response force, operating at very high readiness, I want to ensure we are the “MOST READY” force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for any situation. We must pursue the modernization program of our Corps, placing focus on technological advancements and innovative operational strategies. We’re aiming to sharpen our warfighting advantage, using insights from regional and international partners like NPS. We must sustain best practices and lessons learned through engagements with partners and allies.
What strategies or approaches have you found effective in promoting international cooperation and information sharing? How do NPS and the NPS alumni network support international cooperation?
International cooperation has been greatly facilitated by research partnerships, especially with institutions like NPS. These collaborations allow us to exchange insights and experiences, which are incredibly valuable for both parties. Networking is the glue that binds these partnerships, making them effective and long-lasting.
Given the emphasis on insurgency and unconventional warfare in your thesis, how do you see the role of the Philippine Marine Corps in addressing internal division and security challenges within the country, and how has your thesis work informed your approach to these issues?
My thesis helped in providing our planners with the development of the AFP SOCOM. This product became one of the related studies and references used. Regarding insurgency and internal challenges, the Philippine Marine Corps plays a crucial role in defeating the insurgents. Our Marines have greatly contributed to the demise of adversaries in different joint areas of operations. The insights I’ve gained from my thesis work have given me a better understanding of the kind of warfare we are facing, knowing other effective approaches to these issues, and focusing on operational effectiveness to improve our overall performance.
In your opinion, how can the historical insights from your thesis help shape the future strategies and capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, especially in the context of addressing internal conflicts and security threats?
Historical insights can guide us in shaping future strategies, especially in dealing with internal conflicts. To do that, investing in human capital is essential. Sending qualified officers and personnel to institutions like NPS can make a huge difference. Also, we’re looking at modernizing our education and training systems by incorporating hybrid and flexible learning models.