Seemingly hell-bent on courting controversy in the back half of 2021, Netflix quietly removed two episodes of the spy drama Pine Gap from the Philippines on Monday after the country accused the streaming service of accidentally-maybe-on-purpose depicting a map that legitimises China’s claims to the South China Sea.
According to Reuters, Netflix posted an announcement for Filipino users on Monday claiming that the second and third episodes of the six-part Australian series had been “removed by government demand.” The map in question — which appears briefly in a spy base control room — had made use of the so-called nine-dash line, which China uses to demarcate the disputed territory in the South China Sea it lays claim to, which includes the Philippines, Vietnam, and several hundred other small islands and atolls.
Like the Philippines, Vietnam also vociferously maintains its sovereignty, and also issued a written legal demand asking Netflix to remove the content back in July in compliance with local law.
In a statement obtained by Reuters, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the Philippines’ movie classification board had conducted a thorough review and determined that the episodes in which the map appears were “unfit for public exhibition.” Although Netflix announced its decision to remove the content on Nov. 1, the Philippine films board had delivered that ruling more than a month earlier on Sept. 28, and it was not immediately clear what accounted for the gap in time.
In its ruling, the board noted that the map’s inclusion of the demarcation lines 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,” the DFA said, “is a crafty attempt to perpetuate and memorialise in the consciousness of the present generation of viewers and the generations to come the illegal nine-dash line.”