U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard L. Armitage said today that Philippine officials shared his deep concern over the rising Communist insurgency here but stressed that Washington's support could only be effective if the problems were "faced squarely and honestly."
The U.S. official said he had "frank and friendly" discussions during his three-day visit with President Ferdinand Marcos, Foreign Minister Arturo Tolentino, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and ranking military chiefs on the problems of the insurgency.
In a news conference at the airport before he left for Seoul and Tokyo, Armitage said he found that Philippine officials share the views of the U.S. Defense Department that there is need for a comprehensive solution that encompasses social and economic reforms.
Armitage had expressed concern over the increase in the number of Communist guerrillas and in the scale of fighting with the Philippine military.
The U.S. offical refused to comment on the state of Marcos' health apart from saying he was pleased with the outcome of their 80-minute meeting yesterday. U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth accompanied Armitage. An official in Washington said it was the ambassador's first meeting with Marcos since Dec. 19.
Marcos, 67, appeared unwell on television news last night. In an interview with reporters, the president's speech sounded slurred.
Meanwhile, five employes of the news department of the government-owned Channel 4, including the news director and announcer, were fired because of the broadcast of a videotape showing Marcos being fanned by an aide while presiding over a caucus of his ruling party last Monday.