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Philippine President Arroyo Begins New Term - 2004-06-30

Gloria Arroyo began a new six-year term as president of the Philippines on Wednesday by vowing to mend fences with her opponents and improve the lives of the poor.

In a simple ceremony on the island of Cebu, Gloria Arroyo was sworn in Wednesday as 14th president of the country of 84 million people.

"I, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as president of the Philippines," she pledged.

Earlier Wednesday, Ms. Arroyo gave a speech in Manila laying out a 10-point plan for reviving the country's sputtering economy and helping its poor. She pledged to create millions of jobs, improve education, help small entrepreneurs and attack corruption.

She also warned that the Philippines faces tough economic choices and that the wealthy must do more to help bring prosperity to all. The country is one of the poorest in Asia, despite having a high education level and significant natural resources.

The election in May was marked by violence and bitterness. The main opposition coalition, headed by movie star Fernando Poe Jr., accused the Arroyo government of widespread election cheating. Mr. Poe has yet to concede defeat in the election, which the Philippine Congress says Ms. Arroyo won by just over one million votes.

Ms. Arroyo, a 57-year-old U.S.-trained economist, was vice president in 2001 when a popular uprising ousted former President Joseph Estrada, and she was propelled into the country's top job. Her rival, Mr. Poe is a long-time friend of Mr. Estrada, who remains jailed awaiting trial on corruption charges.

In her Manila address, President Arroyo said it was time for political foes to reconcile and work together for the good of the country.

"To achieve a united country we need to face the deep divisions of our nation squarely. I offer my hand and I hope it will be taken with the same faith," said Ms. Arroyo.

President Arroyo also pledged to end long-running insurgencies by Muslim separatists and communist rebels.

Security forces were on high alert for opposition or rebel attempts to disrupt Wednesday's ceremonies. The only trouble came in Cebu, where protesters clashed briefly with riot police after they were prevented from reaching the inauguration site.