Lieutenant General Noel Abrigo Coballes is the 55th Commanding General of the Philippine Army, as of his assumption on January 22, 2013.
Prior to his present designation, he was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, serving from October 19, 2012, to January 22, 2013, during which he facilitated the smooth completion of procurement projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) related to material and capability development. In his concurrent capacity as Commander of the AFP Disaster Response Task Force, he supervised the AFP’s Disaster Response Operations during the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo in December 2012. Also, in his short stint as concurrent Chairman of the AFP Housing Board, he was instrumental to resolving drawn-out issues concerning AFP Off-Base Housing.
Lt. Gen. Coballes was born in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, on February 7, 1958. He was accepted into the Philippine Military Academy in 1976 and graduated as part of the MAPITAGAN class of 1980.
He completed the Scout Ranger Course in 1980 and graduated at the top of the class in the Infantry Officer Basic Course in 1987. In 1989 he completed the Infantry Officer Advance Course at the U.S. Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was included in the list of outstanding allied students. He likewise completed the Basic Airborne Course in 1996. Lt. Gen. Coballes was among the top 10 graduates of the Philippine Army Command and General Staff Course in 2000. He earned his Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College in 2007.
He completed, among other courses, a strategic Human Resource Management Course at the Asian Institute of Management in 2004.
Lt. Gen. Coballes’ over 33 years of active service took him to command various units of the Philippine Army; he was mostly deployed in Mindanao. He started his military career as a Platoon Leader with the 26th Infantry Battalion, 4ID, PA in Mindanao, from 1980 to 1983. From 1983 to 1984, he joined the First Scout Ranger Regiment and commanded several Scout Ranger Companies of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion in the provinces of Lanao, Misamis Oriental, and Davao. As Major, he commanded four Task Group Panther-Alpha of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, which conducted security operations in various Provinces of Mindanao.
As Task Group Panther Commander, he distinguished himself in the campaign against the Abu Sayaff, then operating in Basilan under Khadafy Janjalani. Thereafter, from 1997 to 2000, he commanded the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, which was deployed to Central Mindanao during the height of the All-Out Offensive against the MILF. He was Commander of the Philippine Battalion for Peacekeeping under the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, from 2001 to 2002. He organized and commanded the 105th Infantry Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Basilan, from 2007 to 2008; the 1003rd Infantry Brigade of the 10th Infantry Division in Davao del Norte, in 2008; was Regiment Commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, from late 2008 to 2011; was Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, from 2011 to 2012; and was Commander of the Western Mindanao Command in 2012.
Lt. Gen. Coballes has been awarded five Gold Cross Medals for gallantry in action in several encounters with the enemy—among them, for his service as Battalion Commander of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, where he led the assault on rebel strongholds that blockaded the Cotabato-Bukidnon highway (popularly known as the Narciso Ramos Highway). Lt. Gen. Coballes was twice awarded the Distinguished Conduct Star, the AFP’s second highest combat award, for leading his battalion during a seven-day assault on Camp Omar in Talayan, Maguindanao, and during numerous skirmishes to capture Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao. The 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion under his command was adjudged as the Best Maneuver Battalion of the AFP in 2000.
Lt. Gen. Coballes is likewise a qualified scuba diver and a PADI-certified diver.