Red Cross battles Batanes, dengue crises
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2019 - 12:00am

The country is currently facing two major humanitarian battles – a dengue crisis that has tragically claimed 491 lives and successive earthquakes in Batanes that displaced 2,000 traumatized individuals.

Fortunately for us, “Flash Gordon” and the Philippine Red Cross are at the scenes.

On Saturday, we woke up to the news of twin earthquakes – one 5.4 and the other 5.9 in magnitude – and successive aftershocks that shook Itbayat, a remote island belonging to the Batanes group of islands, that is accessible only by using small boats. Itbayat is three hours by boat away from Basco, the major island.

I was amazed at the dedication of Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers at the PRC national headquarters, who tirelessly worked over the weekend – calling local volunteers to get first-hand information on the situation in coordinating with inter-agency partners, and preparing all the immediate needs of the affected population.

The chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, Sen. Richard Gordon, who hardly slept as he kept track of movements of the staff and volunteers, told me all activities were focused on the immediate needs of the community – psychosocial support, food, water and shelter.

“We are assessing as we are giving. Right now we are focused on the population’s immediate needs, but eventually, we will provide their long-term needs,” he said.

As of this writing, PRC has distributed hot meals to 900 individuals and continuously providing psychosocial support to the displaced population.

PRC national headquarters has deployed radio equipment, satellite phones, and water purification assets, composed of bladders, treatment kits, and storage space. The humanitarian organization also sent thousands of ready-to-eat meals, temporary roofing materials, and water treatment units.

The Batanes earthquake came close to the heels of the dengue outbreak in Iloilo, Aklan, Cavite, Leyte and South Cotabato.

“The Red Cross is treating the dengue outbreak as a national emergency because one death is already one death too many. The dengue season has just started, and cases may multiply, so we are taking this matter seriously,” he said. Data from the Department of Health shows that the dengue crisis has affected 115,986 individuals this year.

Gordon’s three-point strategy covers: 1) Providing safe and quality blood supply, 2) Providing air-conditioned emergency medical tents to relieve hospitals that are overflowing with dengue patients, and 3) Involving the community and mobilizing 143 volunteers to track down sources of dengue mosquitoes and conduct cleanup efforts within a 400-meter radius where they are discovered.

PRC has provided 245 blood units for 110 patients of dengue hemorrhagic cases.

The humanitarian organization opened dengue emergency medical tents – two in Jesus M. Colmenares District Hospital (Balasan, Iloilo), which accommodated 250 patients against its actual bed capacity of 25. It is set to open more medical tents in Tapaz District Hospital (Capiz), Sara District Hospital (Iloilo), Guimbal District Hospital (Iloilo), Bailan District Hospital (Capiz) and Aklan Provincial Hospital (Aklan).

“While we are focused on these two major humanitarian concerns, the Red Cross is everywhere – providing help to the most vulnerable,” said Gordon.

On a daily basis, the Red Cross serves thousands of individuals through its blood and ambulance services.

It continues to provide aid to the communities affected by previous disasters, such as Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) in Cagayan, Isabela, Ilocos Norte, the dry spell in Catanduanes, and the recovery efforts in Marawi.

These events, along with day-to-day operations, are evidence that The Red Cross is true to its mantra – “Always First, Always Ready, and Always There.”

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There’s another kind of concern – one that victimizes online women (and men) who desire to stop aging with well-skin products.

My true and faithful friend, Betty Lou Peπera, former director for planning at the Philippine Information Agency, an attached agency of the press office of the press secretary (now called Presidential Communication Office) for 20 years, was attracted by an online advertisement of the Auvela Anti-Aging Skin Product. The promo named celebrities as product advisers – the famous Broadway singer Lea Salonga, actresses Sarah Geronimo, Carmina Villaroel and Angel Locsin, and foreign artist Nicole Kidman. If such celebrities use such skin-beautifying product, why not she, said Betty Lou to herself.

Trusting Auvela’s promoter, Betty Lou ordered one unit of the product which was promoted to cost P1,875, with free shipping. She gave her credit card number. To her surprise, the next day, she received a message on the Internet saying, “Your order of Auvela Anti-Aging Skin product has a billing of a signature package amount of P8,625.”

Betty Lou was floored. She ordered only one unit costing P1,875. Immediately she emailed (supposed to be the promoter’s email address) that she was cancelling her order.

She wrote in her complaint letter that she would report the matter to government authorities like the Department of Trade offices, the office of Undersecretary Zeny Maglaya, the Department of Justice-Cybercrime Division, Board of Advertising Standards Department, and the Central Bank of the Philippines, “to put a stop to the seeming ‘SCAM’ online. She later learned that scamming has become prevalent. Her name-dropping threat received no reply.

Instead, she received a letter from Auvela that the amount of P8,625 had been charged against her BPI ATM credit card June 17, 2019 by What more, the sender “was thanking me for placing that order, and that my order is being processed and to allow 2-3 weeks for shipping of the product.”

Up to now, more than a month after she made her purchase online, the package never arrived. Betty Lou has been waiting for Godot.

“That is why Betty Lou is seeking the “kind assistance” of DTI-Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau Usec./Atty. Ruth Castelo and the Bank of Philippine Islands dispute and fraud department to run after the scammers. “They have abused the social media, Facebook in particular, to their advantage, even resorting to fake testimonials of popular artists. My card has been compromised because of this.”

Her sad encounter with Auvela Skin Product is her “first experience in engaging in online shopping,” says Betty Lou. She hopes her story will warn consumers not to be lured by advertisement promising through the Internet eternal beautifying products.

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