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MANILA, Philippines -- Legal experts from the United States are helping the Philippines in its efforts to bring the standoff with China over Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday.
"We have a very, very strong case," Aquino said.
He said the government is looking at all possible means to raise the matter unilaterally before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Aquino said the American lawyers, who Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met in his recent trip to Washington, presented "two specific sets of recommendations."
Earlier, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the country can unilaterally raise its claim over Scarborough Shoal, which is also known as Bajo de Masinloc, before the ITLOS if Beijing refuses to accept Manila's invitation for arbitration.
Hernandez, however, said a unilateral action would only result in a validation of Philippine sovereignty, not a ruling on the territorial dispute.
"If we go to ITLOS unilaterally, it will not be for an arbitration. It will be more for the validation of our sovereign rights," he said.
ITLOS is an independent judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising from the interpretation and application of maritime laws and agreements.
The tribunal, however, requires the concurrence of the parties in a dispute before it can begin arbitration.