By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
THE UNITED STATES has formally turned over the Balangiga bells to the Philippines in a ceremony held at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said the return of the bells may indicate that President Rodrigo R. Duterte would later visit the United States.
“I reminded everyone that, by the way, when this was raised, I said he (Mr. Duterte) won’t go there until the Balangiga bells are returned. Well, they’re coming back. So he will have to go there to the United States. I would think that if that’s the condition he made,” Mr. Locsin said at a televised press briefing in Singapore on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, adding that he raised the matter to the President on Wednesday evening.
“I said, ‘You know, Sir, that now we’re getting the bells and in the context of conversations with (former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki) Haley,’ so he smiled. He says yes,” Mr. Locsin also said.
The ceremony last Wednesday was attended by US Defense Secretary James Mattis and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez.
In a video message provided by the DFA, Mr. Romualdez said the Balangiga bells are expected to be repatriated to the Philippines before the end of the year. He added that the other bell located at a US Army museum in South Korea will also be returned.
In a statement, the DFA said, “The Philippine government and the Filipinos appreciate this gesture.”
For his part, Mr Mattis said during the ceremony, “In returning the Bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend — the Philippines — we pick up our generation’s responsibility to deepen the respect between our peoples — linking western people of the great state of Wyoming with people in eastern Philippines, not far from a town named for General MacArthur.”
“We return these bells with consideration of our present, but also with utmost respect for our past, one of shared sacrifice as co-equal brothers in arms. For we in the US military do not forget those who stood by our side when the chips were down,” he added.
The Balangiga Bells were taken as war booty in 1901 by members of the US Army in Eastern Samar during the Philippine-American War.