Senator wants 'Barbie' film banned in PH over disputed South China Sea map

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 4) — Following Vietnam's decision to ban domestic distribution of "Barbie," a Philippine senator is calling for a similar move here in the country after the film featured a map showing Beijing's controversial "nine-dash line" claim in the disputed South China Sea.

"If the invalidated 9-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie Barbie, then it is incumbent upon the MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty,” Senator Francis Tolentino said on Tuesday.

In 2016, an international arbitral tribunal in The Hague upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the resource-rich waters and said Beijing's "nine-dash line" claim had no legal basis. China, however, refuses to recognize the ruling.

"Dapat lang ipagbawal ang pelikulang Barbie dahil ang pinakita nitong 9-dash line ay salungat sa katotohanan at ipinawalang-bisa na ng arbitral ruling noong 2016 [The film Barbie should be banned because the nine-dash line it showed is contrary to truth and has already been invalidated by an arbitral ruling in 2016]," Tolentino stressed.

The senator said editing out the contested part could be a "middle ground" for the MTRCB and the film producers.

"Perhaps splicing the content can be middle ground but then it would depend on MTRCB's decision on whether splicing it or cutting it would be the solution," Tolentino told CNN Philippines' The Final Word.

For Senator Risa Hontiveros, Philippine cinemas should — "at the minimum" — include an explicit disclaimer that the nine-dash line is "a figment of China's imagination."

Tolentino, however, said the producers may not agree to this.

"[B]ecause it would be an admission that something was done (wrong). A disclaimer would attract attention that it is something controversial," he explained.

Also on Tuesday, the MTRCB confirmed that the film is under review.

"At this time, the assigned Committee on First Review is deliberating on the request of Warner Brothers F.E. Inc. for a Permit to Exhibit. Once available, a copy of the Permit to Exhibit or the Committee's decision will be uploaded to the Agency's official website," the agency said in a statement.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, meanwhile, said he hopes the MTRCB would soon decide on the matter.

"It may be a work of fiction but still, this is a very sensitive issue. It is contrary to our national interest and China has no historic rights in the waters within the nine-dash line…Matagal natin na ipinaglaban ito at dapat lamang na manindigan tayo sa mga usapin na may kinalaman sa soberanya ng bansa [We have long fought for this, and it is only right for us to remain firm on issues related to our country's sovereignty]," Estrada said.

Just last year, the MTRCB pulled out the Hollywood action movie "Uncharted" from cinemas due to a scene showing China's nine-dash line. 

Besides the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.