MANILA - A group of Filipino and American businessmen has called for the return of the Balangiga bells to the Philippines in a bid to strengthen ties between Manila and Washington.
The US-Philippine Society on Monday passed a board resolution expressing support for the return of the Balangiga bells to its "rightful owners," said John Maisto, the organization's president.
The passage of the resolution comes ahead of the group's meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday.
Duterte, during his second State of the Nation Address last year, called for the return of the 3 church bells taken by the US Army from the town of Balangiga, Eastern Samar as "war booty" in 1901 during the Philippine-American war.
The bells remain at an American Air Force base in Wyoming.
"The fundamental message to the President is going to be that we believe the relationship between the United States and the Philippines is alive and well, that we are allied countries," said John Negroponte, co-chair of the society.
"We have shared history that goes back a long, long way and we hope to continue to build on that strong, traditional [relationship]," he added.
The US-Philippine Society is a private initiative meant to promote bilateral, trade, and investment ties between Manila and Washington.
In September last year, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said the American government was already in talks with Philippine officials for the return of the bells, adding that this would be "the right thing to do."