CHINA has guaranteed that Filipino domestic helpers will be able to stay on in Hongkong after the territory reverts to Chinese rule in 1997, Philippine President Mr Fidel Ramos said in Beijing yesterday. The announcement was greeted as ''very good news for Filipino workers in Hongkong'' by Philippine Consul-General, Mr Antonio Villamor. He also predicted that ''a lot more will want to stay now after the assurance''. ''In spite of our assurances, there has been a lot of apprehension. Now that President Ramos has talked to the Chinese leadership, those doubts can be put to rest,'' Mr Villamor said. Mr Ramos, on a five-day state visit to China, said the assurance was won on Monday from the Communist Party chief, Mr Jiang Zemin. He was told that the 100,000 domestic helpers, construction workers and professionals in the territory would not be affected by the transition. Mr Jiang also guaranteed that the current economic system would be maintained in Hongkong after 1997, Mr Ramos said. ''This [the transfer of sovereignty] does not mean there will be an immediate change to the handling or management of foreign workers,'' Mr Ramos said. ''There will be a continuity of policies towards workers.'' Representative groups for Filipinos in Hongkong welcomed the announcement as good news for all migrant workers in the territory, but warned that they would keep up the pressure on the Philippine Government to help improve conditions for foreign workers. But Ms Maarz Balaoro, who heads United Filipinos in Hongkong, an umbrella organisation for 19 migrant worker groups in the territory, said her fears had not been completely allayed. ''We are still concerned about long-term plans. It is possible these assurances will only apply for a few years,'' Ms Balaoro said. ''This pledge may be implemented, but there is still no mention of how long we will be welcomed here. It is still uncertain.'' Mr Ramos will arrive in Hongkong for an unofficial 24-hour visit on Friday. He has agreed to meet members of the Filipino community during his stopover. At this meeting, Ms Balaoro said Mr Ramos would be pressed to ''work out a long-term programme'' for the future of Filipino migrant workers. Ms Cynthia Tellez, from the Mission for Filipino Migrant Workers, said Mr Ramos would be urged to ''make a stand on behalf of migrant workers''. ''We will pressure the President to help improve the conditions and on-site protection of overseas Filipino workers, and to continue to negotiate with the Hongkong Government,'' Ms Tellez said. A spokesman for the Education and Manpower Branch, which deals with domestic helpers' contracts, said the announcement had been noted but there were no plans to change policy on foreign domestic workers.