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US decides to return Balangiga bells to PH

By ARGYLL GEDUCOS

The United States Embassy in Manila has announced that the US Department of Defense has decided to return the Balangiga bells to the Philippines.

“Secretary of Defense James Mattis has notified Congress that the Department intends to return the bells of Balangiga to the Philip­pines,” Trude Raizen, deputy press attache of the embassy, said.

The US National Defense Authori­zation Act of 2018 gives the US De­fense chief the authority to decide on the bells’ transfer. While no spe­cific date was set yet on the war ar­tifact’s return, Raizen said they were assured it will now be processed.

“We’ve received assurances that the bells will be returned to the Catholic Church and treated with the respect and honor they de­serve,” she said. “We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she added.

The bells were reportedly taken from the Balangiga Church in Samar by American troops as war booty from the “Balangiga Massacre” in 1901.

One of the three bells is displayed at the 9th Infantry Regiment in Camp Cloud in South Korea while the other can be seen at the former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at the FE Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

President Duterte made his first appeal to Washington to return the war booty during his second State-of-the-Nation Address last year.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our fore­bears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process,” Duterte said.

“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 added.

Malacañang has welcomed the plan of the United States Depart­ment of Defense to return the Bal­angiga bells to the country.

“We welcome this development as we look forward to continue working with the United States government in paving the way for the return of the bells to the Phil­ippines,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. (with a report from PNA)

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