Isko Moreno turned around Manila in two years; Capital reemerged as competitive and much-improved international city

The popular mayor of the Philippine capital, Manila, said Wednesday he will run for president in next year’s elections, the latest aspirant in what is expected to be a crowded race to succeed controversial leader Rodrigo Duterte.

Isko Moreno was a child scavenger before becoming an actor, and then entering politics. He told the Associated Press that he would fight still-raging coronavirus outbreaks and long-entrenched poverty and promote democracy if he triumphs in the May 9 elections.

While the 46-year-old mayor is expected to bank on his rags-to-power life story, movie star looks and widely praised projects in Manila, including cleaning up its filthy main roads and restoring order in its chaotic streets and public markets, Moreno will be up against formidable national politicians and celebrities.

Two senators have declared their intent to run — international boxing star Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief. At least seven other politicians have said they were considering either a presidential run or lower posts, including Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition; Duterte’s daughter, who is currently the mayor of their southern hometown city, and a son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Duterte’s successor stands to inherit enormous problems led by the pandemic, a battered economy, long-entrenched poverty and decades-long communist and Muslim insurgencies.

“This is not about Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality. This is about making hard decisions and sacrifices,” Moreno told AP. From “a rotten and downtrodden city,” Manila reemerged as a competitive and much-improved capital under him in less than two years “because of fast action and fast decision-making and not getting stuck by digging up past baggage and just moving on,” he said.

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