Barbie, the iconic doll, will come alive this month as a live-action movie that will be shown in the United States and other territories.

The much awaited Hollywood movie will also be shown in the Philippines but some sectors are calling on the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to ban the film.

Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” did not really violate any laws in the Philippines.

The film did not contain explicit sexual scenes, vulgar or offensive language, excessive violence, and graphic depiction of drug use.

However, there was a scene in the film that showed a map of China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea.

This was not the first time that China’s nine-dash-line appeared in a Hollywood movie.

In 2019, DreamWorks’ animated movie “Abominable” featured China’s nine-dash-line.

Netflix was forced to remove a scene in an Australian spy drama “Pine Gap” in 2021 for showing the same Chinese map.

Last year, Sony’s action movie “Unchartered” also had a scene that showed the controversial nine-dash-line map.

It was the Philippines that questioned the legitimacy of China’s U-shaped nine-dash-line claims on the South China Sea in 2013 after Beijing seized control of Scarborough Shoal and prevented Filipino fishermen from getting access to traditional fishing grounds in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague made a ruling in 2016 nullifying China’s nine-dash-line claims. China did not recognize the ruling and ignored international law.

Beijing continued to assert its claims on the South China Sea, harassing fishing boats and coast guard vessels from Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam – three of four Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) claimant-states.

Brunei and Taiwan also have conflicting claims on the busy sealanes where $3 trillion worth of seaborne goods pass every year.

The maritime territorial dispute had also intensified because the South China Sea has potential oil-and-gas reserves.

For instance, China has been harassing Malaysian and Vietnamese oil-and-gas rigs in the South China Sea.

Chinese coast guard and militia vessels have been preventing the Philippines from exploring energy resources in the Reed Bank area, which is within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China has also encroached on the country’s sovereign waters, moving closer to mainland Palawan and taking control of more uninhabited features in the South China Sea.

The 2016 arbitration ruling did not stop China’s bullying and coercive behavior in the disputed waters.

Vietnam had banned Warner Bros “Barbie” in all its cinemas when the movie opened.

The Philippines must do the same. It should not allow China to use Hollywood as a tool for its propaganda to legitimize its claims in the South China Sea.

Putting the nine-dash-line map in a film is not just a subtle propaganda but a conscious effort to challenge the ruling made by an international arbitration court.

China has been using pop culture, like films in Hollywood, television dramas, and Netflix to promote its political interests. This must be stopped.

Banning movies, television series and streaming platforms from using Chinese propaganda would be a step in the right direction.

The Philippines should not allow China a free pass on its propaganda. It must hold China accountable for its actions.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr made a promise a year ago during his first State of the Nation Address that his government would not give an inch of the country’s territory to another country.

He should walk the talk by banning the Hollywood film showing China’s repudiated nine-dash-line claim on the South China Sea.

Marcos should defend and protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, part of his oath as the president of the Republic when took office on June 30 last year.

Marcos could demonstrate his love for the country by ordering the MTRCB, an agency under the Office of the President, to ban the film “Barbie”.

It would be a fitting gesture as the Philippines marks on July 12 the 7th year anniversary of its landmark legal victory in the international arbitration court.

Foreign ministers from the 10 Southeast Asian countries are also meeting this week in Jakarta for an annual ministerial summit.

The foreign ministers will have a chance to interact with foreign ministers from dialogue partners, including China.

Perhaps, Asean foreign ministers can convince China to agree and sign the long overdue Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and ease tensions in the disputed waters.

China is the cause of delays in signing the Code of Conduct.

Informally, the claimant states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — could come to an agreement to ban the movie “Barbie” and deny China of its propaganda.

It’s high time for the Philippines to follow what Vietnam did — ban the movie “Barbie”.

Allowing the Hollywood film to be shown in the country is like agreeing to China’s nine-dash-line claims in the South China Sea.