Duterte names Joel Garcia as Philippine Coast Guard commandant

Pia Ranada
Duterte names Joel Garcia as Philippine Coast Guard commandant
(UPDATED) Vice Admiral Joel Garcia, currently director of the National Coast Watch Center, now helms a force on the frontlines of protecting the country's waters as the government pursues offshore oil exploration with China

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Vice Admiral Joel Garcia as the new Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant, taking the place of Admiral Elson Hermogino who retires on Tuesday, October 22.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade confirmed Garcia’s appointment to Rappler on Tuesday.

Duterte signed Garcia’s appointment paper on Monday, October 21, before he flew to Japan for an official trip.

Garcia, who will retire in June 2020,  bested 4 other contenders for the position. He will offcially assume his new post as the PCG’s 28th commandant on October 24, the PCG said in a statement.

Prior to his appointment, Garcia was the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations.  He also heads the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC), the brain center for the country’s maritime law enforcement operations. 

It gathers surveillance data from the PCG, Navy, Bureau of Fisheries and the police Maritime Group to provide a comprehensive picture of maritime security in Philippine waters.

The NCWC, created though an executive order issued by then-president Benigno Aquino III,  writes reports on maritime incidents for Malacañang and is critical in protecting Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights at sea. 

He is also the chairperson of the Regional Cooperation  Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Governing Council, based in Singapore.  

‘Visionary leader’

The PCG thanked Duterte for his choice.

“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 mandates,” said PCG Spokesperson Captain Armando Balilo.

Garcia graduated from the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) in 1985.  He earned his Masters of Science degree in Maritime Safety Administration from the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden; and Masters in Shipping Management from the PMMA. 

Garcia, a professor in Maritime Administration and Environmental Economics at the PMMA graduate school, served as Chairman of the Committee on Islamic Religious Studies and also a member of the Technical Panels in Humanities and Maritime Education respectively, of the Commission on Higher Education from 2003 to 2010.

Challenges ahead

Garcia had commanded capital ships from the Navy and the PCG, held key positions at the headquarters, and lled four coast guard districts, two functional commands, and two major support commands.

Garcia will helm the PCG at a time when the Duterte administration is pushing for joint exploration of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea with China and other countries.

A possible deal with China is under intense public scrutiny because of its attempts to claim the West Philippine Sea as its own, despite an international court in the Hague invalidating the claim. (READ: Philippines wins case vs China)

Beijing’s continued occupation of artificial islands in these waters and deployment of vessels to swarm Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island and other features still pose a challenge to the Coast Guard. – Rappler.com



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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.