Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte did not raise the issue of the Balangiga bells during his first bilateral meeting with United States President Donald Trump on Monday, Nov. 13, according to Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The church bells, likewise, were not mentioned in the joint statement of the Philippines and the U.S. released to media.
Earlier in July, Duterte demanded the U.S. to return the Balangiga bells back to the Philippines. He said the bells serve as “reminders of the gallantry and heroism” of Filipinos who “resisted the American colonizers” and “sacrificed their lives in the process.”
The U.S. government, for its part, vowed to work on a resolution to address the issue, but did not indicate a specific timeframe.
Based on historical accounts, Filipino guerillas killed 48 U.S. soldiers in the town of Balangiga on the island of Samar during the Philippine-American war in 1900s. In a quick retaliation, U.S. soldiers killed 2,500 Filipinos aged ten and up.
Three bells were taken from Balangiga Church by U.S. soldiers as spoils of war — two of which were presently displayed at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming as a memorial to U.S. troops killed by Filipino insurgents; while the third bell was in South Korea.
Despite several attempts by previous administrations, the bells have yet to be returned in the Philippines. It remained to be a perennial issue between the two countries’ bilateral relations.
‘Enduring’ PH-US alliance
In a joint statement released Tuesday, Nov. 14, Duterte and Trump hailed the “enduring” alliance between the two countries, which they said were “built on a strong foundation of shared values, sacrifices, and history.”
Reaffirming their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the two leaders discussed proposals to help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); develop capacity and capability for maritime security and domain awareness; and provide rapid humanitarian assistance.
Likewise, the two leaders condemned North Korea’s “unlawful nuclear weapons and missile development,” as they called on for the denuclearization in the area.
Concerning the issue on South China Sea, Duterte and Trump underscored the need “peacefully resolving disputes” in the area.
They further urged all concerned parties to “continue pursuing confidence-building measures to increase mutual trust and confidence,” and to “refrain from actions that would escalate tensions, including militarization.”
Duterte and Trump also pledged to “nurture” economic ties between Manila and Washington. Both sides discussed ways to expand on their mutual commitment to “free, fair and balanced trade.”
The two countries agreed “to explore strengthening dialogues for innovation and sharing of best practices in technology to optimize the position of the Philippines as a preferred destination for American investments in the Asia-Pacific region.” (Dana Sioson/AJPress)