Bookshops selling Chinese-made globes in the Philippines have agreed to withdraw them from sale after being told by the government that they depict "misinformation" by reflecting Beijing's claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
The globes show the so-called "nine-dash line", long used by Beijing to depict the extent of its claim to sovereignty over waters and islands that are also claimed by other Asian nations, including the Philippines.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said yesterday: "The DFA has been able to validate that educational globes which reflect China's nine-dash lines encompassing the South China Sea are being retailed locally by establishments that are totally unaware about the maritime disputes between the Philippines and China."
He added: "The management of these establishments are proactively prepared to discuss with the DFA remedies to be able to address the misinformation contained in the educational globes. The Philippines asserts that China's nine-dash line claim is an excessive claim in violation of international law."
A group of Filipinos on the social networking site Facebook first drew attention to the globes.
Telecommunications engineer David Valencia said he and his friends were annoyed after one of them posted photos of two globes: one, bought three years ago in Manila, had the dashes marked "discreetly". Another globe on sale at the National Book Store chain "have the lines, very vulgar", Valencia said. He added that he had asked the bookshop - the largest in the country, with 128 outlets - to stop selling it but received no reply.
He then e-mailed news outlets because, he says: "We feel we owe it to our country. Others may find this issue of little consequence, but if we cannot address this little issue, how do you think we can address an issue the size of West Philippine Sea [South China Sea]?
"These globes find their way to our schools, offices and homes and are instruments of teaching to our young generation. Our country is contesting the nine-dash line with China and at the United Nations, yet we have these in our schools, offices and homes."
The plastic globes sell in the National Book Store for 98 pesos (HK$18.6) for a small one, while the bigger one is 198 pesos. The nine-dash line is prominently marked on both. More expensive globes made in the United States that sell for 2,000 pesos do not show any territorial lines.
A shop official, who declined to be named, said that it was willing to remove the Chinese globes from sale and had notified the supplier.
She said they had not previously been aware of any problem because they merely checked the globes for spelling and correct names of countries and capitals.
The same shop sells Philippine territorial maps, which include the disputed Spratly Islands - known as the Nansha group in China and the Kalayaan islands in the Philippines.
Cartographical matters have provided a running side argument in the South China Sea territorial disputes. Previously, a Chinese embassy official in Manila said that Manila's territorial claims were not reflected in maps sold commercially.
Manila criticised Beijing in November for printing its territorial claims on newly issued Chinese passports.
International law expert Harry Roque said China "wants the world to believe it owns [all of] the South China Sea. It's good [the Philippines] have filed for arbitration" before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.