The president's promised worker relief package comes under fire from all sides Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the labour department to ensure wage increases for workers in the private sector within 30 days, and promised a relief package to help government workers cope with rising prices. But opponents immediately dismissed the idea as unaffordable. Employment Confederation of the Philippines president Rene Soriano said: 'a wage increase is merely a palliative measure ... not lasting relief.' This would harm Mrs Arroyo's drive to create 1.6 million new jobs a year and would make the cost of doing business too high, he said. Any wage rise, estimated former planning secretary Cielito Habito, would only benefit about one-third, or 10 million, of the 31.6 million employed workers. Two-thirds of the labour force are self-employed or out of work. The incoming Central Bank governor, Amando Tetangco, issued a warning that any wage increase should not exceed 6 per cent so as not to harm economic growth. 'If the increases are more than that, then they will generate additional inflationary pressures,' he said. Such an increase in the minimum daily wage would be equivalent to only 18 pesos ($2.59) a day, far below the 75 pesos increase that the four big, pro-Arroyo labour unions have proposed. At present, the daily minimum wage is at most 300 pesos in and around Manila. Fortunato Abat, a retired general who served as defence chief under president Fidel Ramos, blamed the sad plight of Philippine workers and the ills of the economy on 'a crisis of leadership'. He said the only solution was for Mrs Arroyo to be replaced through another 'people power' revolution. A revolutionary council, which the general, 80, volunteered to lead, would then choose Mrs Arroyo's replacement while the military and police would choose their commander-in-chief, he proposed. Mrs Arroyo, without mentioning General Abat's name, advised the public yesterday to 'leave recriminations behind and push forward together for the economy'. 'The sustained consensus of government, labour and industry is indispensable to our unrelenting bid to grow the economy amid fiscal constraints and external factors,' she stressed. Mrs Arroyo admitted yesterday that her order to have the 16 regional wage boards fix the new wages in 30 days was not feasible. Another order, to possibly exempt minimum-wage earners from withholding taxes, was apparently issued without first consulting Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin. She said this 'could affect the cash flow of the government' and its tight budgetary position.