THE historic Balangiga Bells will be ringing in the Philippines again.
The United States formally announced the turn over of the church bells to the country.
The three bells — two at the FE 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.
During his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte called for the return of the bells taken during the Philippine-American war.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday formally returned the church bells to the Philippines.
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualez was at the Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming with Mattis for the official turnover ceremony.
“Ambassador, these bells are now officially going to return to the Philippines,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Elmer G. Cato quoted Mattis as telling Romualdez.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs hailed the long-awaited return of the bells.
“Today is a time of solemn remembrance as we pay tribute to all those who gave up their lives during the Filipino-American War,” the DFA said.
However, some US veterans and Wyoming’s delegation to the US Congress oppose returning the bells which they say are a memorial to the 45 US soldiers who died in the “Balangiga Massacre”, a surprise attack on US troops on Sept. 28, 1901 in the central town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar.