Photo courtesy of Michael Escote/PIA-Palawan (File photo)

Puerto Princesa City has shut down its COVID-19 sheriff program, citing budget constraints.

Program head Ernan Libao said on Monday they will try to look for other sources of funds for the program, but added that they no longer maintain paying the salaries for nearly 100 sheriffs hired by the city government.

“Sa ngayon dahil wala na ngang budget, talagang kakanya-kanya muna talagang hanap muna ng trabaho,” he added.

The COVID-19 sheriff program was intended to enforce public compliance to health safety protocols, with personnel deployed in strategic areas.

The program previously drew funds from the City Tourism Office.

“‘Yong budget kasi namin, which is galing sa City Tourism Office, ay hanggang September na lang kasi. At ang Tourism Office ay nagpapasahod na rin kasi sa mga contact tracers,” he said on Monday.

The COVID sheriff program began in May this year as an expansion of the COVID marshal program. The latter was launched late last year after quarantine restrictions began to relax in Puerto Princesa City. Unlike the marshals, sheriffs are deputized to arrest or penalize individuals who are violating health protocols in Puerto Princesa. These protocols include wearing face masks and face shields in public and observing social distancing. Likewise, sheriffs can also issue violation notices to private establishments that do not observe minimum health protocols.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 marshal program, which preceded the sheriff program, is still active. However, the program is now at the barangay level, and operates on a volunteer basis, according to Libao.

“Barangay na kasi ang humahawak sa mga COVID marshals. Kaya ngayon, naka-deploy na sila sa bawat barangay na kanilang nasasakupan,” he said.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.