Algarve drilling shock: ‘All those stories that said it wouldn’t happen were tactics’

The shock came at 6pm on a Friday night when regional newspapers for all intents and purposes had gone ‘offline’.

“All the calming stories of the past were tactics”, agrees a source. Oil consortium GALP/ ENI is not only going ahead with drilling plans 46kms off the coast of Aljezur, it is considering its whole block of concessions, dubbed Santola, Gamba and Lavagante – affecting the coasts of seven boroughs from Lagos all the way up to Sines.

As activists have been warning since national media started rumours that the contracts had been cancelled (click here), the oil companies and the government appear to have been very busy indeed.

Expresso was the first national paper to break the news at 6pm (when almost every Algarve news source will have finished for the day). Público ran with a similar story two hours later.

The bottom line: “the law destined for public participation in practice has no effect”.

The opinion of councils, too, appears only to be taken on board when it is favourable, our source stressed, explaining that Aljezur’s vociferously anti-oil mayor José Amarelinho remains steadfastly against the plans – but as the contracts in place affect areas of deep offshore belonging also to Vila do Bispo and Lagos, his opposition looks like being ‘watered down’.

Lagos and Vila do Bispo councils are not known for speaking out against gas and oil exploration, while the association of municipal councils (AMAL) – of which Amarelinho used to be deputy president – has been surprisingly quiet.

Affirms Público: “Research and prospection of the Algarve coast is going ahead.

After what the paper calls “a moment of waiting of some months, the ENI/Galp consortium actioned its rights and will be drilling exploratory wells next year”.

José Amarelinho told the paper that he too only received papers to this effect on Friday.

Said Rosa Guedes of anti-oil platform PALP: “We have to lament an apparently modern law, destined for public participation that, in practice, has absolutely no effects”.

PALP and AMAL have submitted legal bids to stop drilling but as Público explains, neither have yet brought any kind of decision.

The right-wing national paper concedes that back in January, the government entity in charge of maritime resources renewed Galp/ENI’s drilling licence for Santola, “despite the existence of a petition with more than 40,000 signatures asking the government to cancel” all the licences in place.

To recap, Santola is the drilling field off Aljezur, while Gamba covers sea areas off Vila do Bispo and Lagos, and Lavagante “covers the municipalities of Sines, Odemira and Santiago de Cacém”.

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