MANILA — Ambassador-designate to the United States Babe Romualdez is optimistic that the Balangiga bells will “soon” be returned to the Philippines after Defense Secretary James Mattis assured President Rodrigo Duterte that he will do everything in his capacity to bring back the war artifacts.
During the meeting of Mattis and Duterte at an event in Pampanga, the envoy said the latter requested the US official to help Manila in retrieving the bells, given it has “sentimental value” to the Filipino people.
According to Romualdez, Mattis gave a response assuring the chief executive “he will do what he can”.
With the favorable reply, the envoy said the bells’ return is certain should come a time that the authorization necessary would come from the defense secretary.
“Ang maganda rin doon, yung defense secretary siyempre siya ang namamahala sa Armed Forces ng US, baka dumating ang araw na siya lang ang kailangang mag-authorize na isoli na sa atin yung mga bells,” he said.
“For me, I am confident that we’ll get it back in a couple of years, no not years, I think sooner than later,” he said. “(It would be) within our lifetime, but I think sooner than later since (talks) are already there.”
“Ang latest na information na na-receive ko, yung law which prohibits the bringing of articles of war, memorabilia ng war medyo nag-expire na, so mayroon tayong mga kaibigang Amerikano na tumutulong sa atin,” Romualdez said before he leaves for Washington to assume his role as the Philippine envoy to US.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in July already said America is willing to return all three Balangiga Bells to the Philippines as both sides explore resolution at an earlier date.
The prominent bells were taken from the Balangiga church in Samar by American troops as a war
booty from the “Balangiga Massacre” in 1901.
With a total of three, one bell is displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Cloud in South Korea while the other two are in the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenee, Wyoming.
Duterte first demanded for the return of the bells during his second State of the Nation Address. “Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage. Isauli naman ninyo. Masakit ‘yun sa amin,” he said.