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The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"Accusations that the government is floundering"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 09:31 GMT
Philippines reform package shelved

Confrontation Constitutional reform plans led to protests last year


Philippines' President Joseph Estrada has shelved plans for constitutional reform in the face of widespread opposition.

Many Filipinos believe the reforms, ratified a year after dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted, could endanger the country's democracy.

President Estrada, who also announced a reshuffle of his senior cabinet, has repeatedly said he would not abandon his plan to remove constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of land and key industries.


Edgardo Espiritu Finace secretary Edgardo Espiritu resigned
His opponents have expressed fears that another effect of the reform package might be to enable the president to override the constitutional limit on his term of office.

Tens of thousands of people protested against the proposed changes in demonstrations last year.

In a televised address on Saturday the president said: "As a leader I must listen."

Mr Estrada said his government would turn its attention to short-term economic measures that would cause less damage to national unity.

In the cabinet reshuffle, house majority leader Manuel Roxas II, a former investment banker, becomes trade minister.

Jose Pardo, the current trade secretary, has been made finance secretary, replacing Edgardo Espiritu, who resigned last week.

Mr Estrada also created a special team of economic ministers, and sacked a group of about 100 "special advisers" who had no formal function and whose proximity to the President had prompted allegations of favouritism.

A BBC correspondent in Manila says Mr Estrada hopes the reshuffle will allay the concern shared by many Filipinos that their country is regaining the reputation it once had as the economic and political sick man of Asia, and reverse a sharp decline in his opinion poll ratings.

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See also:
20 Aug 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Protesters crowd streets in Philippines
15 Jan 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Philippine poverty
26 Jul 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Filipinos demand more freedom

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