MANILA — Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the commitment of the United States to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Philippines has been working for the rightful return of Balangiga bells to the country for many years.
“The statement of US Ambassador Sung Kim that “the return on the Balangiga bells is the right thing to do” therefore is a welcome gesture,” he said.
“The Balangiga bells form part of our national heritage and the return of these historical relics is important for our national pride, as these bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears,” Abella said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the return of the Balangiga bells during his second State of the Nation Address last July 24.
He said that the Church bells of Balangiga were seized by the Americans as spoils of war.
According to historical accounts, one of the bells was used to signal the surprise attack by Filipino fighters against American soldiers in Samar which claimed the lives of 48 US soldiers.
The Americans retaliated by killing thousands of Filipinos from age 10 and above.
“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process. That is why I say today; give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte said.
On Tuesday, Kim assured that Washington is “deeply committed to making sure that the bells are returned to the Filipino people.”
“I believe it’s the right thing to do and I really do hope that we will be able to return the bells soon,” the US envoy said.
In the meantime, Abella also welcomed the PHP730 million US grant to the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
“We welcome the assistance of the United States to finance emergency relief and recovery efforts for the areas affected by the Marawi rebellion,” he said.
The Palace official pointed out that the devastation wrought by the Islamic State-inspired Maute group in Marawi is extensive and recovery efforts would be lengthy.
“The recovery and rebuilding of Marawi cannot be done overnight. It is a multi-year rehabilitation effort which requires the full support and cooperation of everyone to help the city rise as a prosperous city again, as promised by the President,” he said.
“We look forward to the end of the rebellion and eventually, the chance to bravely face the challenges and opportunities of reconstruction together with our friends and allies here and abroad,” Abella said.