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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 06:49 GMT 07:49 UK
Arroyo calls for national unity
Gloria Arroyo makes her pre-inauguration speech in Manila 30/06/04
Mrs Arroyo now has a mandate to rule her 80 million fellow citizens
Gloria Arroyo has been sworn in as President of the Philippines and appealed for national unity following a bitterly disputed election victory.

In a speech ahead of her inauguration, Mrs Arroyo pledged an ambitious programme to create six million new jobs and improve basic services.

It took six weeks to determine Mrs Arroyo had beaten former film star Fernando Poe Junior in the 10 May poll.

Her rivals in the election reject the result, alleging massive fraud.

"I pledge to you a government that will live within its means and put every spare Peso to real work," Mrs Arroyo said in a speech in Manila's historic Rizal Park before flying to Cebu to be sworn in.

"And while I'm doing that, I will crack down on wasteful and abusive officials and influence peddlers."

But she stressed that the nation's citizens must pull together if this was to be achieved.

Poe supporters clash with riot police in Manila on Tuesday, 29/06/04
Mrs Arroyo returned to power amid bitter political opposition

"I can't do everything alone - I need all Filipinos to unify," Mrs Arroyo said

"There are more things that bind us than divide us," she added.

Correspondents say the economy will be Mrs Arroyo's main challenge. She is under pressure to raise taxes and cut spending to control the government's budget.

Much of her speech was clearly aimed at the one-third of the country's people who live in poverty, many of whom supported her presidential rival, Mr Poe.

In Cebu, the Philippines' oldest city and an Arroyo heartland, she took the oath of office before Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, her left hand resting on the Bible.

Her husband, three grown children, two daughters-in-law and two granddaughters stood beside her.

Bomb alert

Security was high for Wednesday's events, with the opposition expected to hold an "alternative inauguration" in protest, but the official ceremony passed off without incident.

Police turned back leftist protesters who tried to reach the venue in Cebu, but Mrs Arroyo and her running-mate, Noli de Castro, were sworn in uninterrupted.

On Tuesday, the authorities broke up a protest by several thousand of Mr Poe's supporters, and arrested four men from the country's Muslim minority suspected of planning a bomb attack during the ceremony.

Police said they were investigating whether the men, found with bomb-making materials, belonged to the Asian militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiah.

Mrs Arroyo has pledged cleaner water, cheaper electricity, more schools and one million new jobs for each of the six years of her term.

But analysts say corruption, a shortage of spare cash and the interests of an entrenched elite could make it hard for people in the Philippines to feel any real difference.

Many opposition supporters also see her as a usurper, who came to power in the first place by default.

Opposition allegations that the election was rigged carry the vague threat of unrest, the BBC's Sarah Toms reports from Manila.

The country has seen two "people power" uprisings and at least nine coup attempts in the last 18 years.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sarah Toms
"The low key event could be an effort to placate the opposition"



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Arroyo inauguration
30 Jun 04  |  In Pictures
Profile: Gloria Arroyo
20 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Reforms key to Arroyo's new term
24 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines seize 'bomb plotters'
29 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
21 Dec 03  |  Country profiles


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