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Algarve’s self-style ‘oil baron’ goes on the attack

Sousa Cintra, the Algarve’s (in)famous self-styled ‘oil baron’ has dubbed yesterday’s news that his onshore drilling contracts covering most of the region are to be scrapped as “unacceptable”.

Explaining that he has already invested “a lot of money in research”, he says the government’s argument that his company does not fill the contracts’ requirements simply does not wash.

“We made agreements with important people who knew what this is all about”, he told Diário de Notícias shortly after national media had beamed the ‘people’s victory’ in the Algarve across the nation (click here).

“Any country in the world” would receive oil with “open arms”, he continued – persisting with the well-played mantra that it is “indispensable to know the wealth this country has in its subsoil”.

“What I want to do is discover if there is oil in the Algarve, and if it is economically viable. I am not interested in compensation, but if they (the government) insist in this situation, then we will have no other alternative”.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã suggests that the former president of Sporting who began life as a lowly bellhop at Lisbon’s Tivoli hotel could end up demanding “heavy compensation” bearing in mind he has been advancing with his ‘initial plan’ to plough €4 million into research for the “first eight years” of work.

However, the ‘research’ entered into in the countryside outside Rogil (Aljezur) earlier this year, led to widespread complaints by locals over negative environmental consequences – particular a foul smell and ‘suspect foam’ at the drilling site.

A number of nearby boreholes ran dry, the ‘constant drilling’ caused cracks to appear in homes close to the site – and eventually APA (the country’s environment agency) shut it down.

The controversy was not helped by the fact that Portfuel refused to accept responsibility for the well which was ostensibly in the hands of another company based at the same registered address (click here).

But as Sousa Cintra and Portfuel prepare for a potential ‘showdown’ with the government in the arbitrations court, the mood in the Algarve is one of reserved delight.

Said Aljezur’s mayor José Amarelinho: “The whole Algarve benefits from the end of these contracts”, while RTA president Desidério Silva has told reporters that he hopes this signal’s the PS executive’s intention to “definitively abandon” all drilling plans for the Algarve.

Elsewhere, pressure groups like Peniche Livre de Petróleo have taken heart from the Algarve’s ‘success’, saying it shows that well-mounted protests can get results.

Shortly after this text was posted online, economy minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral stressed that all parties involved are fully entitled to appeal the government’s decision.

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Photo: Bruno Colaço