Arroyo hits the ground running


The new president of the Philippines Ms Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is to appoint members of her the country's new government, the day after she was dramatically sworn in as the country's 14th president.

"We're hitting the ground running and we would like to assure our people (Arroyo's) team is on ball," said chief presidential aide Mr Renato Corona .

But analysts said she would have to deliver results quickly and deal with a newly powerful military, who switched sides to bring a quick end to the nation's worst political crisis since a 1986 people-power revolution toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Ms Arroyo's disgraced predecessor, Mr Joseph Estrada, has spent the in his private residence in the capital Manila but several friends, including the main lawyer defending him at the impeachment trial, have fled the country.

As the day drew to a close, at least 2,000 Arroyo supporters turned out for a thanksgiving mass at the EDSA shrine, focus of days of anti-Estrada protests.

"Pray for me so that I will not fail you because I want to serve you well," the new president, said in an address. The respected Manila Archbishop, Cardinal Sin, said the country was like a "new-born child". "We must remain vigilant. We must never allow the mistakes of the past to best us again," he said.

Analysts say that Ms Arroyo, the daughter of a previous Philippine president, will have to act quickly to head off dangers lurking beneath the euphoria.

"She is like little Red Riding Hood surrounded by many big, bad wolves," analyst Mr Nelson Navarro told Reuters. "I don't mean to denigrate her, maybe she has courage and steel beyond what is apparent but she is going to need all of it," he added.

One of her first acts was accepting the resignation of police chief General Panfilo Lacson, whom opponents had accused of human rights abuses during Estrada's reign.

The priorities for Ms Arroyo are the deteriorating economy, the problem with refuse disposal and the loss of confidence and respect in the international community.

The peso fell to a historic low of 55.50 to the US dollar last week although it was trading at around 46 in overseas trade on Saturday buoyed by the ousting of Mr Estrada.

In recent weeks, the closure of the capital's main refuse dumps has led to an enormous problem with the Manilla's daily generation of about 6,000 tonnes of garbage. One of the closed dumps was re-opened last week to deal with the problem.