MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, June 1, appointed Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr as the 29th commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Ursabia takes the post of Admiral Joel Garcia who stepped down on Monday after turning 56, the mandatory retirement age for the uniformed personnel. He served as PCG commandant for 7 months.
“We are confident that the appointment of Mr Ursabia will bring the PCG closer to its vision of being a world-class guardian of the sea. We wish the new commandant good luck as he begins to lead the PCG in this challenging time,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Livestreamed on Facebook, the PCG turnover was significantly different from previous ceremonies because of the health measures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Garcia and Ursabia were both on stage wearing face masks. Around 30 or so people were in attendance though they were seated a meter away from each other and also wore face masks.
“I know that VADM Ursabia will continue the significant developments that as a leader at the helm, must be geared upon for the greater benefits of the Command,” Garcia said in a statement.
The PCG statement said that it was during Garcia’s term that the PCG acquired several floating and air assets, aside from weapons and communications equipment, that allowed the agency to carry out missions against piracy, terrorism, kidnap-for-ransom, and smuggling in different parts of the country but especially in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (ZamBaSulTa).
Garcia’s 35-year service was capped by overseeing PCG’s tasks that helped implement measures to prevent the spread of the deadly new virus, such as the PCG personnel being in charge of taking swab samples from repatriated overseas Filipino workers to be tested for the coronavirus.
Ursabia will take over the PCG still with the coronavirus pandemic as the topmost concern of the national government.
Ursabia, who hails from Mindanao, served various positions both in the Philippine Navy and the PCG. A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Hinirang” Class of 1987, Ursabia was the commander of the PCG-Marine Environmental Protection Command and the Task Group Laban COVID-19 Water Cluster before heading the entire coast guard.
Also recommended for the top PCG post were Vice Admiral Leopoldo Laroya, the current PCG deputy commandant and a member of PMA Class of 1988, and Rear Admiral Jose William Isaga, current commander of the PCG District Southwestern Mindanao in Zamboanga City and a member of PMA Class of 1989.
Ursabia was among the 25 active and retired PCG officials who were cleared from allegations that they were involved in a P67.5-million graft case after the Office of the Ombudsman itself withdrew the charges it filed against the officers with the Sandiganbayan in 2019.
Ursabia also served as commander of Coast Guard districts in Central Visayas, Palawan, Southeastern Mindanao, and Northern Luzon, and the commander of the Coast Guard Ready Force and Staff for Maritime Safety Affairs.
Ursabia holds a Master of Science Degree in Maritime Safety and Environmental Protection as a scholar of Sasakawa Foundation, Japan. He also earned his postgraduate degree from the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden in 1999.
Ursabia earned the command-at-sea badge, a coveted award, as he commanded 3 Coast Guard search and rescue vessels and 3 Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources 30-meter patrol boats. – Rappler.com