Taking inspiration from his family of military generals, the newly-installed Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant has shared his challenges, plans, and future vision in the succeeding years of his public service.

PCG Vice Admiral Leopoldo Laroya was appointed as the new commandant of the PCG last Wednesday, Sept. 8. He replaced Admiral George Ursabia Jr. who retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

PCG Vice Admiral Leopoldo Laroya (Photo courtesy of the PCG / FILE PHOTO)

In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, the new PCG commandant shared that he came from a family of military officers, who inspired him to serve and join the uniformed personnel.

Laroya said his grandfather belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1929, while his father is a member of PMA Class of 1956.

“I’m a third-generation uniformed personnel, my grandfather who has with the Army, while my father is from the Philippine Constabulary so those things inspired me also to go to PMA and graduated with the Class of 1988,” Laroya told the Manila Bulletin.

The PCG commandant said that even coming from the different branches of military service, he chose to join the Philippine Navy and has served the Coast Guard for almost 32 years.

“My very first assignment after training in 1989 was with the PCG and I’ve been with the PCG ever since 1989. That is roughly 32 years of Coast Guard service,” he recounted.

Laroya recalled his Coast Guard journey as very similar to the Armed Force with assignments that were expected to be assigned in the different areas of the country.

“We accepted this job then prepared to sacrifice a portion of your life with service and a portion is removed from a portion of your family, so it’s a matter of balancing it. You will be away from your family but it should not affect you. You should be able to adjust accordingly with family and work,” he shared.

Modernizing Coast Guard service, COVID-19 response

As Laroya assumed the post, he will continue the unfinished projects left by the former commandant Ursabia before the year ends.

The PCG commandant said that the Coast Guard has now 20,000 recruited personnel, which was “three times the strength” from only 7,000 personnel in five years ago.

The growing number of Coast Guard personnel and more new vessels and helicopters acquired from France, Japan, and Europe, inspired him to lead the “improving and modernizing” armed service.

​ (L-R) PCG Commandant Vice Admiral Leopoldo Laroya, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiko)

“If the government fully supports the Coast Guard then we will do our share of commitment to improve the Coast Guard because that is what we expected to our government for the people,” Laroya said.

Laroya, however, bared that the biggest challenge they are currently facing is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The PCG commandant explained that the Coast Guard personnel are in the forefront assisting and escorting all arriving passengers including the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the airports as well as in their respective hotels and quarantine facilities.

They also guard each hotel, facility, and airport while the passengers are in quarantine, he added.

West PH Sea tension, Japan terrorism alert

Laroya also discussed making some improvements to the existing policies in most of the Coast Guard functions including the maritime safety rescue operations, environmental protection, and maritime security in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The PCG commandant bared that last week they were able to caution and drive away a number of Chinese fishing vessels in the WPS.

​TIGHT WATCH – Crew members of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Cabra monitor the departure of seven Chinese militia vessels from the Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Photo from the PCG)

“We are at the forefront of the WPS activities. If you have noticed for the past months we were successful in calling the attention of the fishing vessels in China and we are successful in removing them in contested areas of the Philippines,” he underscored.

“If we can do it via peaceful means then that is the best for both nations,” he added.

Laroya has also assured the public that even before the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ alert on potential terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia, the Coast Guard continuously implemented intensified border and seaborne patrols in the country’s maritime waters.

Personnel of the BRP Gabriela Silang conducted towing and rescue operations exercise off Panay Island on Tuesday, June 29, while the ship is traveling back to Manila to replenish supplies and prepare for the next mission. (Photo courtesy of the PCG)

“We are not putting our guards down with or without the Japan alert we are always continuously maintaining our vigilance in maritime security threats,” the PCG commandant said.

Calling for public service

Laroya said joining the Coast Guard service is a “matter of calling.”

A Coast Guard personnel must have the urge to give public service and concern in raising awareness on the cleanliness of the marine environment, the PCG commandant shared.

“The Coast Guard is not just about the law enforcement, it’s not just being the uniformed service, it’s more about the public service. More humanitarian as far as the Coast Guard is,” he added.

Laroya underscored that he will make sure that all policies are done correctly under his post as the PCG commandant.

“I will have to make sure that all policies are done correctly. My legacy would be to leave a Coast Guard that is compliant to all the policies and ensuring that all the services that we are supposed to provide are done correctly for the good of the nation.”