MANILA, Philippines – Despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong remarks demanding the return of the Balangiga bells, he did not bring it up in his bilateral meeting with United States President Donald Trump.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told Rappler on Tuesday, November 14, that the iconic bells were “not discussed” during the roughly 40-minute talk.
They were also not mentioned in the joint statement of the Philippines and the US released to media.
Duterte is known to harbor strong feelings about the taking of the Balangiga bells by American soldiers in the early 20th century as spoils of war.
Signaling a historic siege, the bells led to the US military’s so-called worst single defeat in the Philippines. In what is known as the Balangiga Massacre, locals outsmarted and killed 48 out of 74 US troops in 1901.
More than 3,000 online petitioners also urged the US in 2014 to return the Balangiga bells, when then US President Barack Obama visited the Philippines that year.
Duterte asked the US, during his State of the Nation Address, no less, to return the bells.
“They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” he had said in July.
In response, the US vowed to resolve the Balangiga bells issue, but without indicating a specific timeframe.
But in September, or two months after demanding back the bells, Duterte said he “would rather be friendly” with the US since they were able to “redeem themselves.”
The interactions between Duterte and Trump during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits showed a burgeoning rapport between the two firebrand leaders. – Rappler.com