Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the commitment expressed by the United States for the return of the Balangiga bells and their initiative for additional funds to help in the recovery efforts of Marawi.
“The Philippines has been working for the rightful return of Balangiga bells to the country for many years,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.
“The statement of US Ambassador Sung Kim that ‘the return on the Balangiga bells is the right thing to do’ therefore is a welcome gesture,” he added.
Abella said that the return of the war-time bells is important to the country’s best interests.
“The Balangiga bells form part of our national heritage and the return of these historical relics is important for our national pride, as these bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears,” Duterte’s spokesperson added.
On Tuesday, Kim said Washington was committed to bringing the bells back to the Philippines after being non-committal for more than a decade.
In his last State of the Nation Address, Duterte, a vocal critic of Washington, demanded the return of the relics.
In a separate statement, Abella likewise welcomed fresh donations of $14.3 million or P730 million to finance emergency relief and recovery assistance for the communities affected by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and the surrounding areas.
“We welcome the assistance of the United States to finance emergency relief and recovery efforts for the areas affected by the Marawi rebellion,” Abella said.
Abella stressed that the recovery efforts on the devastation wrought by the Mautes “cannot be done overnight.”
“It is a multi-year rehabilitation effort which requires the full support and cooperation of everyone to help the city rise as a prosperous city again, as promised by the President,” he said.
“We look forward to the end of the rebellion and eventually, the chance to bravely face the challenges and opportunities of reconstruction together with our friends and allies here and abroad,” he added.
Of the P750 million, P153 million will go to USAID’s office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance to deliver critical supplies such as safe drinking water, hygiene kits, shelter materials for the evacuation centers and for the programs to protect displaced women and children.
The rest of the money or P577 million will finance the recovery, stabilization and rehabilitation of Marawi and its surrounding areas.