After a weeklong review involving “two meticulous screenings” and deliberations across several departments of government, authorities in the Philippines have decided to allow the summer blockbuster Barbie to be released in the country.
“Rest assured that the Board has exhausted all possible resources to arrive at this decision,” the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) wrote in a letter on Tuesday, explaining that it “has no basis to ban the film,” though it has asked the movie’s distributor Warner Bros. to blur part of a scene that could be misinterpreted.
Barbie has lately been under intense scrutiny over the appearance of a map that some have alleged depicts the “nine-dash line”—a maritime border rejected by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague but continuously promoted by China to claim virtually all of the South China Sea.
The screening approval in the Philippines comes a day before the seventh anniversary of The Hague ruling and a week after Vietnam announced that it would ban the release of Barbie over its display of the controversial map—which also sparked U.S. lawmakers to criticize filmmakers for promoting Chinese propaganda.
Warner Bros. issued a statement last week describing the map in question as a “child-like crayon drawing” that was “not intended to make any type of statement.”
The MTRCB said in its letter—which was addressed to Francis Tolentino, a Philippine senator and vocal proponent of a Barbie ban—that there was “no clear nor outright depiction” of the nine-dash line, unlike in other films that have been previously banned. It also stated that the map marking in the film was not U-shaped and had only eight dashes.
”Regardless of whether they think this is an eight-, seven-, or nine-dash line,” Tolentino, who said he disagrees with but ultimately respects the MTRCB decision, told local media outlets in a video statement, “what we see here is China’s continued claims of Philippine waters.”
Barbie is set to be released in the Philippines on July 19 and in the United States on July 21.
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