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Why Admiral Abu sees the Philippine Coast Guard as family


Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant, Admiral Artemio Abu’s greatest pride and inspiration is his family. That is why when he became the chief of the PCG, he declared that his vision is to liken its existence to a family — the basic but most important unit of society.


His aspiration for the PCG is to bring it “to the next level of success in doing public service. The second one is, we will make the PCG a symbol of hope and a source of national pride of this maritime nation.” While he admits that people would think his vision is unachievable, the proud farmer’s son says that he has a proven track record of dreaming big and achieving it by starting small.


“You set your aspirations high, then start small. I want to liken the PCG to the basic but most important unit of society — and that is family. In every home, we find love, hope, forgiveness, understanding, compassion. Inihalintulad ko ang Coast Guard sa isang malaking pamilya, isang masayang pamilya na nagkakaisa,” he says, noting that bringing people together toward a common cause is important to achieve success.


Born a leader


Admiral Abu has been with the PCG since 1993. But it was not really his goal when he was younger. In fact, it was never his childhood dream to be in government. What he wanted then was to be a doctor — he believed he was capable as he was a consistent scholar and topnotcher in school. But as his parents did not have the means to send him to medical school, he opted to join the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).


His first foray in public service however, was when he was appointed kabataang barangay in 1984. He says it must have been that the barangay chairman and the sanggunian saw his leadership potential. He told me he has always been a leader — whether in group work in school, as a cub scout and Boy Scout, at the Citizen’s Army Training (CAT) and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He never says "no" when given a chance to lead; he is not afraid of responsibility.


When Admiral Abu graduated from the PMA in 1992, he wanted to join the Philippine National Police (PNP), but his older brother was already with the PNP. His second choice was the Air Force, but during the medical test he had sinusitis and the screening committee told him he could be an Air Force officer but there is no assurance that he could qualify to fly. And so, he chose the navy, but with the intention of already joining the PCG.


ADMIRAL ABU'S FAMILY from left to right: Children Kurt Patrick, Karina Paula, Kariza Pamela, wife Carlota, and Kevin Paul.


In 1993, he joined the PCG. Since then, he remained with the PCG. But as in every journey, it’s not always smooth sailing.


When he was a member of the PCG’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) when the Government Procurement Act was just being implemented, a losing bidder filed a complaint against them, accusing the BAC members of enriching themselves.

Admiral Abu was among those dismissed from the service. But he did not stop until he cleared his name. Truth was on his side.


To this day, he considers that episode in his life a memory he could not forget.


He shares that when you are in public service, you have to be willing to sacrifice, and you should not be afraid of making decisions. “In making a decision, never be afraid to commit a wrong decision. Because committing a wrong decision is far better than making no decision at all. And two things to remember in making a decision: it has to be sound and it has to be timely.”


Priority in PCG


Even before he became head of the PCG, Admiral Abu knew that bringing people together will make him achieve more. He says it is important that those who work with him are willing to support him, because what they will be doing is for the good of everyone and for the good of the country.


It is this leadership style that made him successful wherever he is assigned. In fact, he was recognized by the Philippine Military Academy as the distinguished Cavalier Awardee for 2021 in the field of coast guard operation.


As coast guard officer, he has been assigned as provincial head of the PCG in Camarines provinces, Province of Masbate, and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan. He also served as commanding officer of various category of PCG ships where he earned the most coveted Command at Sea Badge. All the units which Admiral Abu had commanded, both ashore and afloat, have the distinction as best unit of the year at the national level.


When he was Ready Force Commander, he was instrumental in the design, identification of technical specification and qualifying the manning requirements for the 15 brand new coast guard vessels which were acquired by the Philippine government from Japan and France.

Today, the modernization of the PCG continues — from expanding its manpower (from only 8,500 in 2016, to 25,000 at present) to modernizing its assets.


I asked what he is most proud of, and he goes back to his family: “The success of my family, my children; to see that they are doing better than their father. Kapag nakikita ko ang mga anak ko following my footsteps, and I can see andoon na sila, nalagpasan na nila ang kanilang teacher.”


Then he relates it to the PCG again, “It’s the same principle in Coast Guard — leadership is not just about creating more followers, but more about developing more leaders.”

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