The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) is currently looking into whether the new Barbie film will be shown in Philippine theaters.
The move comes after Vietnam banned the film from its cinemas over scenes with a map showing China's claims to territory in the South China Sea—an issue that is highly contested by other neighboring countries including the Philippines. Through the years, it has used its "nine-dash line" to justify its argument.
The MTRCB in a statement released on July 4 confirmed that the board members have reviewed the Barbie film and are making a decision on whether it will be screened in local theaters.
"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," the government agency stated.
Some senators in the Philippines have shared their two cents on the issue and what the MTRCB should do next.
According to Sen. Francis Tolentino, it should be no question that the fantasy comedy film be banned from being shown in theaters if the nine-dash line is indeed shown in some scenes.
"If the invalidated 9-dash line was indeed depicted in the movie Barbie, then it is incumbent upon the MTRCB to ban the same as it denigrates Philippine sovereignty," Tolentino said.
"Dapat lang ipagbawal ang pelikulang Barbie dahil ang pinakita nitong 9-dash line ay salungat sa katotohan at ipinawalang-bisa na ng arbitral ruling noong 2016," he added.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, is recommending a less strict move. She said that an "explicit disclaimer" should instead be shown by local cinemas as "the movie Barbie is fiction and so is the nine-dash line."
"At the minimum, our cinemas should include an explicit disclaimer that the nine-dash line is a figment of China’s imagination," the lawmaker wrote on her social media pages.
Clashing against her views is film actor and senator Jinggoy Estrada, who voiced out that while the film is a work of fiction, the nine-dash line is still "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. No less than the Arbitral Tribunal already held in 2016 that this infamous line has no legal basis," Estrada said in a statement sent to the press.
"Matagal natin na ipinaglaban ito at dapat lamang na manindigan tayo sa mga usapin na may kinalaman sa soberanya ng bansa. Umaasa tayo na sa lalong madaling panahon ay makakapagbigay ng desisyon ang MTRCB dito," he added.
As the lawmaker pointed out, it is not the first time that films had been banned from being screened in local cinemas for featuring the contested line. Previous films that were affected include the 2019 animated flick Abominable as well as the action-adventure movie Uncharted.
The upcoming Barbie film is directed by Greta Gerwig and stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, alongside America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Ariana Greenblatt, Issa Rae, Helen Mirren, and Will Ferrell.
Based on the iconic fashion dolls by Mattel, the movie's premise centers on the titular character as she experiences an existential crisis while living in Barbie Land. She then sets out on a journey to the Real World to find a solution to her problem of being a less-than-perfect doll, only to be joined by Ken.
Barbie has a July 19 release date in the Philippines.