Algarve councils declare war on region’s oil exploration deals

AMAL, the Algarve’s association of borough councils, has finally come out fighting against oil and gas exploration deals signed by the Portuguese government earlier this year.

In a hard-hitting statement released yesterday, AMAL said it will harness “all legal means possible” to see the deals reversed, given that they pose “serious consequences” for the region, “putting people’s lives and the future of a local economy, especially reliant on tourism,” at risk.

Coming almost three months since national fuel entity ENMC declared Portugal was “back on the oil exploration map” – with concessions being signed on and offshore throughout the Algarve as well as elsewhere in the country – AMAL’s stand follows individual protests by the mayors of Sines, Tavira, Vila do Bispo and Aljezur.

The next step is a meeting with the ENMC and government representatives in the AMAL’s HQ on December 18, reveals Sulinformação website.

In interview with AMAL president and mayor of Tavira Jorge Botelho, Sulinformação highlights the cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the government’s concession deals – a process so lacking in transparency that none of the councils were even approached for their opinions.

Botelho said he only discovered that his own borough was the name on one of the deals by reading the news in the press.

AMAL’s statement reiterates this position: “The constant absence of information either to councils, the intermunicipal community of the Algarve or Algarve citizens, by successive governments is unjustifiable and one of the capital sins in the whole process.”

The government’s exploration ‘deals’ have completely bypassed Algarve boroughs and their populations, and AMAL says it “does not understand” why it was never informed.

Thus eyes now are on December 18, while anti-oil groups are busy on the ground.

ASMAA, the organisation that has been sounding the alert over exploration for over four years, is now at full-throttle organising talks and awareness sessions throughout the region. The next is in Vila do Bispo on Wednesday, December 16 at 8.30pm at the town’s Bombeiros fire station. Anyone and everyone is welcome.

ASMAA’s plan is to harness AMAL’s support by raising petitions in each of the 16 borough councils to empower the region’s mayors to fight the exploration deals in parliament.

Leading campaigner Laurinda Seabra stresses there is no time for complacency, “particularly as two questions put by the representative of PAN in parliament recently” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5c9h9vpAV0) were “completely ignored by prime minister António Costa”.

As the Resident informed in September, the concessions handed out by the former PSD government have ring-fenced 14 of the Algarve’s 16 boroughs for gas and oil exploration, while the rights to every single offshore area along the coast – with exception of a small tip around Cape St Vincent – have already been assigned.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com