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Philippines' Aquino Holds First Cabinet Meeting

7 years ago194 views

Benigno Aquino III was sworn in as the country's 15th president on Wednesday, vowing to lay down his life to uphold democracy.

Soldiers honored him with a 21-gun salute as he arrived in the presidential palace, where he lived decades ago as first son during the presidency of Corazon Aquino.

Aquino also held his first cabinet meeting with his newly appointed ministers, a mix of old hands in government and fresh faces from the private sector.

The first order of the day was declaring vacant about 4,000 executive positions in the bureaucracy.

He also asked his cabinet to identify top spending priorities ahead of his submission of the 2011 budget in July or August.

Aquino has to tame a budget deficit that reached nearly 4 percent of GDP in 2009, which he said he would tackle by enforcing existing tax laws.

The president later hosted a simple reception with the diplomatic community, attended by ambassadors, dignitaries and representatives of international organizations.

[Knut Solem, Norwegian Ambassador]: (English)
"He got a very, very warm reception. It was very nice to be part of it, to see this, where everyone wished him the best of luck in the coming years."

[Suneeta Mukherjee, Representative of United Nations Population Fund]: (English)
"The president looks young, enthusiastic, fresh. And I hope all these remain and lead the country to progress."

To cap his inauguration day, Aquino attended a street party held for his supporters, which included youth, civil society leaders, and showbiz celebrities.

His supporters wished him well and said they welcomed the dawn of a new government.

Aquino surprised the crowd when he sang a Tony Bennett classic "Watch What Happens" and a Filipino rock favorite.

Aquino won the elections by a landslide, bagging 15.2 million votes or 42 percent of the total.