MANILA -- Senator Grace Poe threw her hat into next year's presidential race on Wednesday, thereby rebuffing an attempt by President Benigno Aquino to get her to run for the vice presidency alongside former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, the ruling Liberal Party candidate.
Had Poe run for vice president, her immense popularity would have been a certain boost for Roxas, who has performed poorly in surveys.
A rookie senator, Poe evidently reckons she can go it alone. In 2013, she topped mid-term elections for the senate with over 20 million votes.
Poe is the third person to announce a presidential bid, with Vice President Jejomar Binay from the opposition United Nationalist Alliance also running.
Candidates must register next month, and more may well join the race under the Philippine multiparty system.
Poe has said she will run as an independent, but major parties could back her according to local press speculation.
Even without declaring her candidacy, Poe has been dominating surveys. In a poll by Social Weather Stations in June, she emerged top with 42%. Binay got 34% and Roxas 21%.
Poe, 47, was educated at Boston University and is the adopted daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr, who lost to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in fraud-marred presidential elections in 2004.
At her announcement rally on Wednesday, Poe rolled out some 20 policy proposals. These ranged from improving sports programs so the Philippines can clinch its first Olympic gold to doubling infrastructure spending to 7% of gross domestic product. She said this would boost economic growth, which has averaged 6.2% in the last five years, the highest in four decades.
Poe said she would also invest in agriculture, promised to find ways to lower income tax, upgrade decrepit transport infrastructure, and tackle worsening traffic that often reduces Metro Manila to complete gridlock.
In reference to a major territorial dispute with China, Poe said the West Philippine Sea being preyed upon by Beijing "is ours". She stopped short of detailing specific measures to deal with the China threat, however.
Aquino, who is limited to a single six-year term under the Philippine constitution, has attempted to solve the dispute in the South China Sea through UN arbitration instead of bilateral dialogue, and also by promoting relations with the US and Japan.
Poe previously said the Philippines should not rely on the US to defend its territory. She has pushed for greater public access to government information, and has sustained an honest image. Questions relating to her citizenship have dogged her, however.
Deviating from her usual soft tone, Poe praised Aquino's anti-corruption efforts and vowed to continue with them.
"No individual or group has the monopoly of the 'righteous path'," said Poe in an allusion to Aquino's campaign for good governance that has been used by the ruling party to promote Roxas's candidacy.