MTRCB urged to seriously study calls to ban ‘Barbie’ showing in PHL over 9-dash-line segment

(BUSINESS MIRROR) More senators weighed in on the issue of banning the live-action film Barbie from cinema exhibition in the Philippines, a day after Vietnam announced a decision to ban it over a segment showing China’s controversial nine-dash-line map that other South China Sea claimants deem an excessive claim.

Senators Francis Tolentino, a lawyer, and actor Senator Robin Padilla joined earlier calls by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Jinggoy Estrada—also an actor like Padilla—to urge the film classification agency to seriously consider banning the movie.

Tolentino warned that allowing the local screening of the motion picture Barbie will only lead to “injurious” consequences to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines.

“This will not just be injurious to the Republic of the Philippines but would be contrary to what our country fought for and achieved under that Arbitral Ruling in 2016,” warned Tolentino, vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said during an interview on CNN Philippines.

“What the effect would be? Something that would dilute our sovereignty,” he added.

Tolentino made the remarks after he earlier urged the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to block the upcoming screening of the Barbie movie, which was directed and produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, after the film’s digital illustration of a scene with the so-called “nine-dash line”—the People’s Republic of China’s basis of their supposed militaristic expansion in the entire South China Sea (SCS) region, including the zone along the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In 2016, The Hague Tribunal invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line doctrine over the entire SCS region following an arbitration case filed by the Philippine government on January 22, 2013. China’s nine-dash line unilaterally encroached territories of other member-states of the Asean.

“The Arbitral Ruling clearly stated that the claim of China here has no legal basis,” Tolentino stressed.

The Vietnamese government already decided to totally ban the screening of Barbie following a review, in which, the depiction of the nine-dash line scene was first noticed.

According to Tolentino, it is up to leadership of the MTRCB on whether to forbid the showing of Barbie, similar to what the said agency did when it decided not to allow the local screening of the films “Abominable” and “Unchartered” in 2019 and 2022 respectively, due to their depiction of the nine-dash line.

Meanwhile, Sen. Padilla, an actor by profession, said on Wednesday that a decision to ban showing of the movie in the country “will depend on the context of the film, and to what extent the producer is willing to make sure the concern about the arbitral ruling will be addressed.” This assumes the controversial segment of the movie Barbie has an impact on the 2016 arbitral ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidated China’s nine-dash-line claim.

“First, in the interest of fairness, I cannot make a personal call at this time on whether or not to allow the showing of the movie Barbie in the Philippines, without first watching it,” Padilla said in a statement.

But Padilla added, “this is clear: The decision of whether to allow the showing of this film due to its scene about China’s nine-dash line—which contradicts the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines—ultimately depends on the messaging of the film.

“If the scene or scenes will affect the arbitral ruling, but if the producers would agree to edit it, or them out, then I have no problem having it shown,” Padilla said.

However, he added, “if an agreement cannot be reached to make sure the film does not become a geopolitical issue, then there is no choice but to disallow its showing here. Thus, all this will depend on the context of the film, and to what extent the producer is willing to make sure the concern about the arbitral ruling will be addressed.”