A Glimpse of Navotas as told by Rolando Serna

May 6, 2020

Sheena Pena

During SAFER’s third batch of food kit distribution held last April 25, 2020, there was a demonstration on how to do a “modified hug” while practicing social distancing. In the photo are Vivian (in red shirt and black jacket) and Olive Illut (in grey) from NLMNF, teaching Roselle Rasay (in black) from SAFER Foundation.

Few representatives from SAFER participated in the third batch of food kit distribution in Navotas which was held last April 17, 2020. During their visit, they were able to talk with some of the beneficiaries who came to receive their packages. They were able to interview Rolando Serna, 52 years old, President of the Fishport of Navotas Neighborhood Association (FONNA). FONNA is a member of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Maralitang Navoteno Foundation (NLMNF) who is SAFER’s community partner in its covid-19 emergency response project in Navotas.

Rolando is one of the informal settler families residing inside the Navotas Fish Port Complex that is operated by the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA). He mentioned that most of the men work at the fish port as batillo (work involves loading and stacking fish basins).

According to Rolando, there are about 1,000 families in the area and 700 of which are members of FONNA. He recalled that a major fire incident happened in the area last October 2019 which greatly affected the whole community. Affected families rebuilt makeshift houses using light materials such as thin plywood. SAFER representatives noticed that these houses are about 3m x 3m in size. Considering the little space, some houses are home to more than one family and they make use of additional plywood as dividers.

SAFER representatives continued to walked around the community with the hospitality of Rolando. The households have no tap water. Their common water source is a stream, tapped through a hose. There’s a public toilet (with about 5 units) shared by the families, but has no water, so they have to fetch and bring their own water when they use it.

Rolando’s family has been living in the area since the 1990s when his parents settled there. Since then, there have been several improvements/developments done by the government in the fish port that have displaced the informal settler families. The families were offered cash ranging from P2,000 to P8,000 each, but without permanent resettlement. So they would come back and rebuild informal settlements in the area because the fish port is their source of livelihood. As the President of FONNA, Rolando leads the negotiations with the barangay and PFDA for a permanent settlement for the families that will be affected by anticipated developments in the area.

Since the October fire, he had to focus on organizing FONNA and facilitating services in the area in their behalf, so he was not accepted in his work at the port anymore. With his 4Ps allowance, he was able to set up a small sari-sari store as their source of income, which his wife takes care of.

SAFER Foundation continues to do weekly distribution in Navotas during the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECZQ) with the funds raised from donors.

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