President Reagan's remarks about the Philippines in last night's debate were greeted today by the government of President Ferdinand Marcos as a show of support but criticized by the political opposition as simplistic.
In the debate, Reagan portrayed the "alternative" to the present government as "a large communist movement to take over the Philippines" and said the United States would be better off trying to retain the friendship of the Philippine leadership than "throwing them to the wolves and facing a communist power in the Pacific."
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Reagan did not mean to suggest that the only alternative to Marcos was a communist regime, United Press International reported.
Departing from the department's normal policy of not interpreting Reagan's remarks, spokesman John Hughes said, "I don't think the president was narrowing the situation that far. I think there is certainly recognition on everybody's part that there are other forces working for democratic change in the Philippines."
The government television station tonight led its evening news broadcast with film of Reagan's remarks about the country, calling them a strong expression of support for the Philippines, the site of two strategically important U.S. military bases.
A Marcos aide said the statements were met with satisfaction in the Malacanang presidential palace.
However, a leading opposition figure, Agapito Aquino, the brother of assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino, called Reagan's remarks "uninformed" and said the communists were hardly the only alternative to Marcos.
"I think President Reagan is ignorant of the conditions of the Philippines," Aquino said. "What we are trying to do is present an alternative which is not Mr. Marcos and not necessarily communist."
Aquino added that Reagan seemed to be accepting the "Marcos line" that he is the only bulwark against a takeover by communist insurgents in the Philippines.