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PNoy stresses upholding of law in resolving sea row

President Barack Obama talks with Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Obama and leaders of Southeast Asia nations are wrapping up a two-day summit conceived to show U.S. seriousness about staying engaged and keeping a high profile in a region where a rising China has rattled American allies. Sitting directly behind Obama is Secretary of State John Kerry is at left. AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III stressed the importance of upholding the rule of law and peaceful resolution of territorial disputes over the South China Sea during the first day of the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit in California.

US President Barack Obama hosted the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the first time. The summit commenced on Monday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the leaders expressed their views on promoting regional prosperity during the first session of their retreat.

The leaders' discussions continued over a working dinner where Aquino "spoke on the importance of upholding the rule of law and peaceful resolution of disputes in the region."

The DFA noted that Obama and the ASEAN leaders expressed collective concern over militarization in the South China Sea, which they considered as a core issue in the region.

READ: Asean leaders concerned over China militarization

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"There was also concern expressed over unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region through island building, construction activities and test flights. In this regard, the crucial importance of freedom of navigation and overflight was highlighted," the DFA said.

The leaders emphasized the role of close cooperation and consultation in upholding regional peace and stability.

"It was established that ASEAN should speak with one voice to ensure that all parties modify their behavior to conform with the rule of law and ensure the preservation of status quo," the DFA said.

China has been claiming ownership over the whole South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the disputed sea.

The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, questioning the latter's nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea.

Obama and leaders of Southeast Asia called for a peaceful resolution of the maritime disputes in the region as they concluded the summit at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California.

RELATED: Obama, SE Asian leaders seek resolution to maritime disputes

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