New PCG chief welcomes joint exploration with China

Christina Mendez, Ralph Edwin Villanueva - The Philippine Star
New PCG chief welcomes joint exploration with China
New Coast Guard Chief: Vice Admiral Joel Garcia stands in front of the Philippine Coast Guard during the command turnover ceremony at the Bonifacio Naval Station in Taguig City yesterday, as he takes over from Admiral Elson Hermogonio (right).
Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has chosen Vice Admiral Joel Garcia as the new Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant to replace Admiral Elson Hermogino who retired yesterday.

Garcia expressed support for the joint exploration of Philippine waters with China and vowing strict monitoring of narcotics.

Malacañang and the PCG said Duterte chose Garcia, the agency’s deputy commandant for administration, over four others in the shortlist.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte signed the incoming commandant’s appointment paper before he left for Tokyo on Monday to attend the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo yesterday.

Garcia will officially assume the position tomorrow, making him the 28th commandant of the PCG.

The President has also expressed his confidence in Garcia’s capability to lead the PCG, a responsibility he will take amid the administration’s plans to undergo joint exploration of resources in Philippine waters with Beijing.

“We are confident that the incoming commandant, a man of vast knowledge, competence and integrity, would continue to lead and advance the PCG to greater heights,” Panelo said in a statement from Japan.

In an ambush interview after the change of command ceremony at the Bonifacio Naval Station in Taguig City, Garcia claimed that the conditions on the joint exploration laid down by the Chinese would “definitely” benefit the Filipino people. ?

“Almost all legal pundits will agree that the terms and conditions proposed by China are still within the bounds of our Constitution. And I would say that the Philippines would be better off to have that cooperation,” Garcia said.?

“How are we going to explore the vast resources we (own) with respect to the law of the sea (if there is no exploration?)” Garcia added.?The new commandant, however, said it would still be up to commander-in-chief Duterte. ?

“We have to follow the direction of our President because he is the chief architect of our foreign relational policy. We have to submit ourselves to the wisdom of the President,” he said.?

Garcia is a graduate of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy and a licensed master mariner. He also served as chairman of the committee on Islamic religious studies and was a member of the technical panels in humanities and maritime education of the Commission on Higher Education from 2003 to 2010. 

“The command is very thankful to the President for choosing a visionary leader who cares for the welfare of his subordinates and is passionate in accomplishing the PCG’s mandate,” PCG spokesman Capt. Armand Balilo said. 

Focus on narcotics, maritime terrorism

Garcia said he would prioritize countering the entry of narcotics, which Duterte earlier said is hampering his war on drugs. 

The PCG has seized millions of pesos worth of cocaine bricks that have washed ashore in coastal villages in the past years.

Aside from this, Garcia said he would work hard to curb maritime terrorism in the Southern Philippines and to protect the sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea and other areas inside the country’s exclusive economic zone. 

Garcia is also chief of the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), where surveillance data for the country’s maritime law enforcement operations are gathered. He also heads the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia. 

He said the Philippines should “have due regard to the sovereign rights of other countries who indeed have the same privileges.” – With Robertzon Ramirez

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