REAR Admiral Alexander Lopez is the new chief of the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom), the military unit in charge of protecting the country’s southern frontier that included the disputed but resource rich West Philippine Sea.
Lopez replaced Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda who formally relinquished his post on Wednesday, four days before his 56th birthday, the mandatory retirement age for men in uniform.
Traditionally, the Wescom chief post is reserved to an official from the Air Force.
Lopez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, bested several other senior generals that included his “mistah,” Maj. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, a veteran pilot, who was earlier touted as the most probable successor of Deveraturda.
Prior to his appointment as Wescom chief, Lopez served as AFP deputy chief of staff for education and training.
AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang admitted that Lopez and Vivar were the two top contenders for the Wescom post, but Lopez was chosen because of his familiarity to the area as he was already previously assigned in the command.
“Our feeling is that he [Lopez] is more appropriate. You know the job [in Wescom]is more of the Navy, naval projection, protection of our national interest, and he came from here. So you don’t have to train somebody else,” Catapang explained.
“Sometimes if one is unfamiliar with the job, it would take long [before you get on the loop], while Admiral Lopez already knows his job,” he added.