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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"This revolution was fuelled by religion and indignation"
 real 56k

Sunday, 21 January, 2001, 08:28 GMT
Arroyo moves to bolster economy
Newspaper seller in Manila
Savouring the details of the people's revolution
The new President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, has made her first cabinet appointment, Finance Minister Alberto Romulo, underlining her pledge to make the restoration of the economy her top priority.

But in his first comments, Mr Romulo has warned that the task will take time.


It will take a minimum of two years to get back on our feet

Alberto Romulo

The deposed president, Joseph Estrada, is still reported to be in Manila, although local newspapers say some of his friends have fled the country.

And one of Mr Estrada's main supporters, the Philippines police chief, has resigned.

During Mr Estrada's impeachment trial, the Philippines desperate economic problems worsened, with the peso last week reaching an all time low of 55.75 against the US dollar.

Joseph Estrada
Estrada: Facing charges of economi plunder
Mrs Arroyo and Mr Romulo also have to deal with a growing budget deficit, high interest rates, inflation and unemployment. Their success is vital for the tens of millions of Filipinos living in poverty.

"It will take a minimum of two years to get back on our feet. Some are even more unkind, they say it will take five years or even more," Mr Romulo told local radio.

Experience in government

He brings some government experience to the post, having served as budget minister for President Corazon Aquino after the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Mrs Arroyo, herself an American-trained economist, has pledged to restore business confidence by ending the Philippine culture of corruption.

"What the business community needs is transparency and a level playing field," she said, shortly after being sworn in on Saturday.

Estrada scandal
9 Oct: Former ally makes allegations
11 Oct: Cardinal Sin urges Estrada to quit
18 Oct: Impeachment motion filed
7 Dec: Corruption trial begins
16 Jan: Trial collapses
17 Jan: Street protests in Manila
19 Jan: Estrada calls snap election
20 Jan: Estrada abandons presidency
Business reaction to Mrs Arroyo has so far been positive.

"We are back in business," Raul Concepcion, chairman of the Federation of Philippines Industries told AFP news agency.

"Many businesses were beginning to close shop and, even before that, some were laying off people and implementing a four-day working week," Mr Concepcion said.

Later on Sunday, Mrs Arroyo is due to hold a victory celebration at the Edsa shrine in the capital, a memorial to the 1986 popular revolt that marked the end of twenty years of rule by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Military backing

Mr Estrada finally resigned when what has become known as the second people's power revolt gained the support of the military on Friday.

His impeachment trial had earlier collapsed when senators acting as judges decided to bar the inspection of the president's bank accounts.

The country's top policeman, General Panfilo Lacson has now handed in his resignation. Opponents accuse General Lacson of human rights abuses during Mr Estrada's rule.

He was the last senior supporter of Mr Estrada to abandon him, following the lead a few hours earlier of the head of the armed forces, General Angelo Reyes.

General Lacson's successor has already been named. He is Leandro Mendoza, a former director for police intelligence who became head of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime.

Mrs Arroyo has ruled out an amnesty for Mr Estrada and her spokesman says he will be charged with economic plunder.

Sunday newspaper reports say Mr Estrada's main defence lawyer during his impeachment trial, Estelito Mendoza has fled the country.

Two other associates, businessman Jaime Dichaves and gambling executive Charlie"Atong" Ang are reported to have left Manila for Hong Kong.

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See also:

20 Jan 01 | Media reports
Arroyo inaugural speech: Excerpts
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
World leaders welcome Arroyo
18 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada's bank records revealed
18 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada tries to ride out storm
17 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Uproar at Estrada trial
08 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Mrs Estrada faces bribe claims
20 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Challenges confronting Arroyo
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