MANILA – The United States has started working with the Philippine government for the return of the Balangiga bells to the country as quickly as possible.
“There is an ongoing effort, ongoing discussion within the US government and with the Philippine government to try to facilitate the return of these bells as quickly as possible. I believe it’s the right thing to do and I really do hope that we’ll be able to return the bells soon,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in a press briefing.
Kim believes the bells are “emotionally and historically important matter” for the Filipino people.
The Ambassador did not give a timeline for the return of the bells.
The Balangiga bells were seized by US troops from Balangiga town in Samar more than a century ago during the Philippine-American war. The troops took back the relic to the US as war booty.
“It’s very difficult for me to predict things, the timeline but I assure you that we are deeply committed to making sure that the bells are returned to the Filipino people and I hope that we’ll be able to see some progress not at distant future,” Kim said.
Efforts started a month after President Rodrigo Duterte called on the US to return to the Philippines the bells of the Balangiga church during his second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July.
Meanwhile, the US government, through the US Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has committed about PHP730 million ($14.3 million) in emergency relief and recovery assistance for communities affected by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and its surrounding areas.
“The United States is deeply committed to this relationship and remains ready to support our friend and ally as we face the challenges and opportunities,” Kim said.
“We all look forward to the end of the crisis, and the end of the fighting and suffering. We have been and will continue to support the Philippine government’s efforts to deal with the crisis,” he added.