Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said Wednesday the imminent return of the Balangiga Bells will continue the process of “historical and diplomatic healing between the Philippines and the United States.”
“The bells’ return is a timely and significant gesture that can only lead to the further mending and strengthening of relations between two traditional allies. We’ve insisted on getting them back for generations. Now that the Balangiga bells are coming home after more than a century, we’re thankful. More importantly, we’re appreciative and proud of the efforts of our government, veterans groups, historians, local and US academics and every Filipino who relentlessly campaigned to take back what is rightfully ours.”
President Rodrigo Duterte called for the return of the Balangiga Bells in his second State of the Nation address in 2017. The bells were taken as war booty by American troops from Eastern Samar during the early 1900s in what historians call the Filipino-American War.
Pimentel filed Senate Resolution No. 610 more than seven years ago on 28 September 2011 seeking the return of the bells and other war artifacts taken by US troops at the turn of the 20th century. His father, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, authored the first Senate resolution on the matter in 2002.
“This is a long-overdue victory for the Filipino people. Unlike in actual war, however, everyone benefits. There are no winners and losers here. This has been a long time coming, and we fully appreciate both the gesture of the US government and tireless efforts of everyone else from our government and the private sector,” the lawmaker stressed.
The return of the Balangiga Bells comes at a time of significant pivots made by the Philippine government in relation to the region’s two acknowledged powers, the United States and China.
“As a long-time advocate on the matter of the bells’ safe and complete return to Philippine soil, I cannot overemphasize the significance of this event, especially at this time and considering our continually evolving relationship with the US these last two years. This signifies a closure and a new beginning between our two countries,” Pimentel said.