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Algarve oil debate: Parliament hears contracts give state up to “20 times less” than international market

With self-styled oil baron Sousa Cintra stymied from any more drilling in the Algarve, parliament heard yesterday how the State is set to earn up to 20 times less from its oil concessions than anywhere else within the international market.

Worse, the Algarve deal cut with Sousa Cintra in the dying days of the last government, look set to bring in “200 times less” than onshore contracts drawn up in Norway, Left Bloc MP João Sousa told the house.

“One reads the contracts and simply cannot believe them”, he said. “The remuneration of the State for these concessions does not correspond in any way with international patterns that could serve as reference. They vary between 10 and 20 times what is practised on the international gas and oil market.

“How can one consider reasonable the money the State will receive for the concession of half the territory of the Algarve”, he queried, “when it is a value per sq km 200 times less than that practised with Norway for example”.

Stressing it was time to stop drilling for fossil fuels altogether, Soares added that “as this case illustrates” it is also time to bring a halt to the “exclusive benefit of private entities”.

But yesterday’s grilling of former environment minister Jorge Moreira da Silva was designed to dig deep into the reasons for giving Sousa Cintra’s comparatively unknown company Portfuel the right to prospect for gas and oil over 3000 sq km of the Algarve for the next 40 years – and as such MPs heard that from now on at least the former Sporting president would be prevented from sinking any more boreholes – whether for water or any other purposes.

Former energy minister Artur Trindade guaranteed that Portfuel’s concessions for blocks dubbed Aljezur and Tavira only sanctioned “geological studies of the subsoil”.

Nevertheless, the irritation that his environment counterpart feels for the anti-oil movement became clear, after Moreira da Silva criticised groups like ASMAA and PALP, leading opposition, for being “led by retired foreigners” who want to live in “the land of Indians” (meaning, an unspoilt paradise).

Reacting with delight, ASMAA CEO Laurinda Seabra has said: “I think our group must be one of the biggest nightmares for Moreira da Silva and co., because it was through hard work of our association and our foreign and Portuguese friends that most of the foreign resident population has been informed and mobilized. I am personally satisfied. It is gratifying to see this person so annoyed”.

For now, the government is studying Moreira da Silva’s contracts, as what he says and what is written down do not appear to tally.

Feeling in the corridors of power, we’re told, is that Sousa Cintra’s concessions hang by a thread – but that does not include offshore concessions which flank nearly every metre of coastling along the Algarve.

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