Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos brushed off U.S. concern about the growing strength of the Communist insurgency in his country last night, saying the guerrillas were "surrendering all over the place."
Appearing on ABC News' "Nightline" program via satellite from Manila, Marcos said he had given Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) a memorandum "containing all the facts" about the insurgency.
Laxalt was sent to the Philippines as a special emissary of President Reagan and expressed Reagan's concern about Marcos' ability to contain the rebels.
Asked about his meeting with Laxalt, Marcos said the senator delivered a letter that "called attention to some adverse reports," but the Philippine president repeatedly played down the seriousness of the rebel threat.
At one point in the interview, Marcos held up a photograph that he said showed rebels surrendering in a previous insurgency. "We're not another South Vietnam," he said. "We have had a long experience with insurgency."
As of today, Marcos said that his government is committing five new operational battalions to fight the insurgents, estimated by U.S. analysts to number between 10,000 and 12,000, and that all decisions now would be made in the field.
Marcos said there was no need to move up presidential elections, currently scheduled to be held in 1987, because he said he already had the "mandate of the people" and needed to devote his time to fighting the insurgency and the country's economic crisis.
The United States has two key bases in the Philippines, among its largest overseas, and Washington is concerned about the security of the bases in light of the increasing activity by members of the New People's Army, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.