Occupants of a new refuge for domestic helpers yesterday won an immediate rise in the cash given from the Philippines Consulate to buy food, which they allege was less than $1.50 per person a day. A noisy protest during the visit of the Speaker of the Philippines House of Representatives, Jose de Venecia, reaped rewards, as he promised a 'substantial' rise in the food allowance. Mr de Venecia had an even bigger gift for about 10,000 Filipinos who attended a rally in Sai Kung, with the announcement that legislation would be introduced to exempt overseas domestic workers from tax in the Philippines. Known as a populist politician, Mr de Venecia said consulate staff had warned him not to attend the opening of the new refuge in Wylie Road, Ho Man Tin. 'These are the militant ones, but even if they are the militant ones you have to listen,' he said. The refuge is for domestic workers who have had their contracts terminated or have other problems which mean they have to leave their employers, and the 35 present occupants may eventually swell to 60 or even 100. The refuge has been set up in former barracks lent by the Hong Kong Government for just $1 a year to replace a previous shelter in Tin Hau, which had 47 women and four babies in a 1,000 square foot flat. Labour attache Virginia Son said the budget had already been raised 250 per cent, but residents allege that no extra cash has yet turned up. Protesters were not satisfied. 'We want $10 per person per meal,' one said, while another said the centre was dilapidated and mosquito-infested and the consulate should provide legal assistance. Mr de Venecia said discussions with Beijing had indicated that workers from the Philippines could continue to come to Hong Kong and 'there will not be any abrupt change'.