Netflix pulls episodes in Philippines over South China Sea map

Netflix has removed two episodes of an Australian spy show from its streaming service in the Philippines after Manila objected to scenes showing a map with Beijing’s claims to the disputed South China Sea.

China has long used its so-called nine-dash line to justify its claims over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, where the Philippines has rival claims.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday it had lodged a complaint over the map which included the line — shown briefly in the drama “Pine Gap” — with the Philippines’ broadcasting authority.

Episodes two and three of the show had been tagged “This episode removed by government demand”. It was not clear when they were pulled.

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board ruled in September that certain episodes of the show violated Philippine sovereignty and were “unfit for public exhibition”, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

“The portrayal of the illegal nine-dash line in Pine Gap is no accident as it was consciously designed and calculated to specifically convey a message that China’s nine-dash line legitimately exists,” the department said, citing the broadcasting authority’s decision. 

The department said it “expects Netflix to comply with the ruling”.

Rachel Arenas, who was chair of the broadcasting authority when the decision was handed down, told AFP that Netflix had been ordered to remove episodes two, three and four. Episode four was still available Monday.

Earlier this year Vietnam lodged a complaint over the same issue, prompting Netflix to pull the entire six-episode drama in the country.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the South China Sea — a key global shipping route — to be without basis.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing over the waterway flared in March after hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.