MANILA - Philippine boxing world champion and congressman Manny Pacquiao has announced he will take up a new challenge by running for a Senate seat in national elections next year.
Pacquiao, whose popularity transcends economic classes and makes him one of the most recognisable people in the Philippines, said late on Monday he was looking at one of the 12 Senate seats up for grabs in May.
"I am formally announcing my candidacy for senator. I am running for higher office," he said during an address in his home province of Saranggani, which he represents in Congress.
"Maybe it's time, this will be the first time in our history that we'll have a senator from Region 12," Pacquiao told his constituents, referring to one of six regions comprising the southernmost Mindanao islands.
Pacquiao, 36, did not say what party or coalition he would join for his Senate bid. Politics in the Philippines is a multi-party system that has long been dominated by powerful clans, as well as film celebrities and sports stars.
Boxing matches featuring Pacquiao, who is also an army reservist with the rank of lieutenant colonel, have often brought the country to a standstill. Maoist rebels and Islamist extremists fighting government forces in the south have even paused to watch telecasts of his fights.
Pacquiao lost the richest prize fight in boxing history to American Floyd Mayweather last May. The fight catapulted both boxers into the Forbes' list of the world's 100 highest-paid celebrities.
As a second-term congressman, Pacquiao authored 15 bills and co-authored 27 others, mostly promoting social welfare and sports-related causes.
However, the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper reported early this year that Pacquiao attended only four sessions of Congress in 2014, the fewest of any congressman.
More than 54 million Filipinos will go to the polls in May to vote for a new president, vice president, and some 18,000 lawmakers and local government officials in elections that happen every six years.