MANILA: Two episodes of the Netflix political thriller “Pine Gap” were no longer available on its streaming service in the Philippines on Tuesday after a government complaint over scenes involving a map used by China to assert its claims to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, a major trade route and resource-rich waterway. Parts of it, which Beijing features on its official territory map, are also contested by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, which called the use of China’s map in the series a violation of the country’s sovereignty, on Monday evening shared a ruling by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board that ordered the removal of the second and third episodes of “Pine Gap” as “unfit for public exhibition.”
The removal was welcomed by the Presidential Palace, with spokesman Harry Roque telling reporters on Tuesday the episodes were “based on a very inaccurate scope of Chinese territory.”
China claims most of the South China Sea waters within the so-called nine-dash line, which includes Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands, of which certain features are also claimed by the Philippines as parts of the West Philippine Sea.
In 2013, the Philippines formally initiated arbitration proceedings against China’s use of the nine-dash line under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2016, a special tribunal of arbitrators ruled in favor of the Philippines, concluding there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the area.
As the MTRCB ordered the removal of the two “Pine Gap” episodes using Beijing’s map, it said the government had the “responsibility to counter China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea to assert the Philippines’ territorial integrity.”
The DFA, citing the movie regulator’s decision, said the portrayal of the “illegal nine-dash line” in the Australian series was “no accident as it was consciously designed and calculated to specifically convey a message that China’s nine-dash line legitimately exists.
“Such portrayal is a crafty attempt to perpetuate and memorialize in the consciousness of the present generation of viewers and the generations to come the illegal nine-dash line.”
Netflix has not commented on the issue, but as the two episodes of the show disappeared from its platform it indicated they were “removed by government demand.”
The Philippines was the second country, after Vietnam, to have requested the removal of “Pine Gap” episodes from the Netflix platform.
In July, the Vietnamese Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information said the appearance of the nine-dash line in the map used in the show “angered and hurt the feelings of the entire people of Vietnam.”
Following the complaint, Netflix pulled the entire six-episode drama from its service in Vietnam.