Diplomats and security experts tackle security and regional co-operation at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) third maritime forum in Manila, which opened on Wednesday.
Though the meeting focused on protecting marine resources and securing trade routes, the territorial disputes in the South China Sea became a hot topic.
Four ASEAN members - Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam - all claim parts of the South China Sea, setting them against China which claims sovereignty over much of the region.
Philippines Vice-president, the forum's keynote speaker is optimistic about a peaceful solution.
[Jejomar Binay, Philippines Vice President, Forum Keynote Speaker]:
"Isn't it that there is a new opening, isn't it that the incoming president (of China) is saying, he is implying, that they are also supporting a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem?"
Chinese President-in-waiting Xi Jinping last month said China was committed to resolving territorial differences with its neighbors through peaceful, friendly relations.
Australian security expert Professor Sam Bateman says potential risks are higher in the dispute between China and Japan.
[Professor Sam Bateman, Australian Ocean Resources and Security Expert]:
"The situation over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is potentially more serious, because you've got bilateral, you've got two big countries, sort of sabre-rattling at each other."
The sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea had taken the spotlight away from equally urgent challenges of resource management and environment protection.
The Philippines has urged a multi-lateral settlement framework, and has looked to ASEAN to establish a code of conduct.
Conflicting claims over the oil-rich Spratly Islands have prompted China, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan to step up sea and air patrols as well as garrisoning isolated atolls and floating patrol bases.
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