The details of the possible return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines will be made in two to three months from now, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday.
The official made his remarks hours after a news report cited American lawmakers opposing the return.
“We’ll know within two to three months,” Cayetano told reporters, but expressed hope that the transfer would occur within the year.
The US embassy in Manila on Saturday said US Defense Secretary James Mattis notified the US Congress of their intention to return the war booty to the Philippines.
While no specific date has been set, the embassy said “it will now be processed.”
Cayetano called this a “welcome development.”
“My first time in Congress, the first speech I’ve heard was what language should we use in the session hall. The second speech I heard was the return of the Balangiga Bells, and every Congress after that is a speech on the return. It’s (been) 20 years since I became a congressman,” he said.
“After several decades since it was taken, it’s such a welcome development and I thank Defense Secretary James Mattis because he paid such detailed attention to this request,” he added.
Cayetano acknowledged the “very high emotions” from both sides in getting the war artifacts but he expressed hope that everything would go smoothly.
According to historical accounts, the Balangiga bells are three church bells taken by the US Army from the town church of Balangiga, Eastern Samar as war trophies following the Balangiga massacre in 1901 during the Philippine-American War. PNA