Balangiga bells to be returned to Philippines ‘in time for Christmas’

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Balangiga Bells
One of the Balangiga Bells that remain in the possession of the US military since been taken as war booty in 1901.

The Balangiga Bells, taken by US forces from the Philippines as war booty in 1901, are expected to be returned in time for Christmas.

Dr Rolando Borrinaga of the Committee on Historical Research of National Commission for Culture and the Arts said today (Tuesday, November 13) that the tentative date of arrival of the bells will be “late December”.

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Dr Borrinaga said the Balangiga bells will be returned to their original belfrey in Eastern Samar. “The original campaign is that the bells should be returned in the church right where they belong,” he said.

Dr Borrinaga also urged tight security for the returned bells due to their historical value.

President Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo has also welcomed the news, but said it would not issue further comments until the bells had actually returned.

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He said: “We welcome any movement towards the return of the the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines.

“The president himself, in his second State of the Nation Address, expressed his desire for the return of these bells explaining that they form part of our country’s patrimony and they were taken at the cost of bloodshed of thousands of Filipinos.

“Given that the possession of the bells have not yet been turned over to the Philippine government, we are withholding any further comment on the matter until the last bell has been properly delivered to the country.

“In the words of the president himself: ‘It ain’t here until it’s here’.”

The three bells — two in the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and one in a US military facility in South Korea — were taken from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, in 1901 as war trophies.

They have been subjects of a campaign for repatriation for more than 20 years.

In August, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed documents favouring the return of the bells to the Philippines.

Kim Sung, the US Ambassador to the Philippines, has also backed calls for their return.

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