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International relations

Philippines slams DreamWorks film showing China's 'Nine-Dash Line'

Foreign minister calls for boycott after Vietnam pulls movie from its cinemas

The animated film "Abominable," which was released in the Philippines in early October, elicited a strong negative reaction on social media in the country over a scene showing Beijing's "Nine-Dash Line" on a map.   © AP

MANILA -- The Philippines' foreign minister has called for a boycott of U.S. animated movie studio DreamWorks after one of its films showed a map that recognized Beijing's expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.'s comments on Twitter follow a decision by Vietnam on Sunday to pull the movie, titled "Abominable," from its cinemas over a scene that showed the "Nine-Dash Line" on a map. The line is Beijing's unilateral demarcation that it says gives it sovereignty over a vast swath of the South China Sea, including areas that Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines claim as their own territorial waters.

Tensions have flared in recent weeks over the South China Sea, with Vietnam complaining that Chinese ships have remained in its exclusive economic zone despite protests. Meanwhile, troops from the U.S., Japan and the Philippines kicked off joint maritime drills near the disputed waters this week.

Reacting to a tweet by prominent Philippine maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, who called for the movie to be banned, Locsin said late Tuesday: "What about cutting out that scene?"

"For me, call a universal boycott of all DreamWorks productions [from] here on," Locsin added.

On Wednesday morning, the minister said Manila's Movie Television Review and Classification Board, which screens TV and movie content, should step in. "They should cut out the offending scene, which will show our displeasure -- better than if we unconstitutionally ban it as some suggest," Locsin said. "Maybe interject the MTRCB head in the cut-out scene with a hectoring lecture."

"Abominable," which was coproduced by DreamWorks and Shanghai-based Pearl Studio, is about a teenage girl named Yi and her quest to reunite a yeti with his family in the Himalayas.

The animated film briefly showed a map that included Beijing's "Nine-Dash Line" claim. That claim has no legal basis, according to a July 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague. Beijing has rejected the ruling, saying the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the matter.

The movie was released in the Philippines earlier this month and drew a strong reaction on social media following the news that Vietnam had banned it.

The South China Sea dispute is a hot-button issue in the Philippines. According to a Social Weather Stations survey in June, 87% of Filipinos want the government to assert the country's rights in the South China Sea, in accordance with the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has worked hard to forge closer ties with China, has said the South China Sea dispute requires a "delicate balancing act."

Yet the Philippine military, which has slammed China's moves in the South China Sea, has stepped up its maritime cooperation with U.S. and Japan in the wake of the dispute.

"We are strongest when we sail together," said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia, in a statement on Tuesday. "We train together, so that together we can face threats to maritime security."

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