MANILA, Oct. 20, 2011— The Philippine government has expressed optimism that the United States Congress will decide favorably on pending resolution returning the century-old historic Balangiga bells to the Philippines.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said that after years of negotiation, he is confident that the US would finally heed the voice of the Filipino people clamoring the return of the Church bells to Balangiga town in Eastern Samar.
“Through the years there have been dialogues between independent bodies; and the governments of the two nations, in hopes of arriving at an equitable solution to the issue,” said Binay.
The vice president made the statement in a letter to US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas sent last October 5.
“Since both parties, it would seem, have reached a consensus to return the Bells to our country but for the opposition of former Wyoming Governor David Freudenthal, I am optimistic that the United States Congress shall soon decide the matter in our favor,” he added.
Binay noted that the bells’ return is also hindered by an amendment to the US National Defense Authorization Act that bars “the return of veterans’ memorial objects to foreign nations without specific authorization in law.”
The Vice President urged that concerned parties seek all available avenues to resolve the matter.
He added that the two nations must heed the voice of the people in settling the issue.
“Since the Filipino populace, the Wyoming Veterans Council, and the Catholic Church are considered as the major stakeholders in this issue, it would be safe to assume that the people’s voice calls for the return of the Bells to the Philippines,” he added.
The Balangiga Bells were taken by US forces as a war trophy in the aftermath of the Balangiga Massacre in Samar during the Philippine-American War.
Efforts to return the Bells to the Philippines have started in 1957 when Jesuit historian Fr. Horacio de la Costa requested the 13th Air Force in San Francisco, California to repatriate the bells.
One of the bells is in the possession of 9th Infantry Regiment at Camp Red Cloud based in South Korea while two others are at a former base of the 11th Infantry Regiment at F. E. Warren air base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Meanwhile, the Balangiga Historical Society through the National Historical Institute and the Department of Foreign Affairs initiated formal government efforts in reacquiring the Bells in 1989. [CBCPNews]