Philippines Weighs Decision on ‘Barbie’ Movie

Authorities in The Philippines are weighing a decision on whether to follow the lead taken by Vietnam and ban Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie.

Vietnam on Monday announced that it will bar the film’s commercial release due to the movie’s depiction of a map that depicts the “nine dash line,” a disputed representation of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, like Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, have competing claims in the South China Sea and strongly refute China’s claim to nearly the entire maritime region.

“If the invalidated 9-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie ‘Barbie,’ then it is incumbent upon the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty,” said Philippines Senator Francis Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, according to local media reports.

On Tuesday, the MTRBC published a statement on its website saying that it is examining the movie’s classification. But it did not give an explanation.

“We confirm that the Board has reviewed the film ‘Barbie’ today, 04 July 2023. 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 MTRBC said.

Last year, the MTRBC blocked the release of “Uncharted” in The Philippines for the same reasons.

Senators appear willing to discuss a compromise, such as asking distributor Warner Bros to edit out the offending scene in “Barbie,” though there is no certainty that the studio would agree.

Philippine cinemas should “at the minimum” carry include an explicit disclaimer that the nine-dash line is “a figment of China’s imagination,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros.

The South China Sea contains some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and mineral resources. China has bolstered its claim to control the area by reinforcing reefs and reclaiming land around tidal maritime features that are several hundred miles from its continental coastline.

The Philippines coast guard regularly clashes with fleets of Chinese boats that are claimed to be fishing vessels, but which others claim are part of a vast attempt to intimidate neighbors. Vietnam makes frequent complaints about Chinese vessels operating in close proximity to maritime oil production rigs in waters that Vietnam claims.

A United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) disputes resolution tribunal in The Hague in 2016 ruled unanimously against the validity of the nine dash line. However, while the South China Sea Arbitration is final and binding there are no clear mechanisms for its implementation and China has said it does not recognize the decision.

Leave a Comment