Drilling embargo ‘falls’ but Galp/ENI “reaffirm” they’re not interested

This is the gist of new ‘oil related stories’ in the national press this week.

The central administrative court of the south (for reasons unclear) has ‘revoked’ the decision by Loulé judges to ban drilling. In theory this means concession holders GALP/ ENI could go ahead and start activity 46 kms off the Aljezur coast.

GALP/ ENI meantime have “reaffirmed” that they’re no longer interested.

Good news? No it isn’t, say campaigners, all of whom smell a huge rat.

The problem is that the government – despite all its environmentally-friendly sounding proclamations – has been actively promoting hydrocarbon exploration for years – and its ‘moratorium’ on granting new licenses runs out after the October legislative elections.

Campaigners’ fears (to be fair, they are more than fears) are that the minute the Socialist’s ‘contraption alliance’ is voted back into power, new licenses will be granted thick and fast.

Both PALP and the independent pressure group ASMAA are thus refusing to come off their guard.

But the difficulty now is in maintaining pressure, as the general public is being expertly lulled into the belief that ‘the drilling threat is over’.

Both PALP and ASMAA have released statements in a bid to warn supporters of possible ‘underhand tactics’.

PALP is even considering challenging the new legal ruling, on the basis that it completely ignores the right of “the principle of precaution” enshrined in the Basic Law of the Environment of 2014 , which was cited by the group in its initial challenge.

ASMAA has told its supporters that the drilling embargo is in fact still in place thanks to an action lodged by ASMAA that has yet to be adjudicated on.

But at the same time it has to be said that ‘clarification on the government’s position’ – requested by both PALP and ASMAA throughout this latest court fight – continues to be met with resounding silence.

On Monday however, west Algarve pressure group Stop Petróleo Vila do Bispo released a statement in which they printed what appears to be the ‘orginal’ letter from GALP/ ENI stating the reasons for the companies’ withdrawal.

The letter was dated October 29 of last year.

Why, asks the group, did the government “conceal this letter for so long” and why did the courts not hand it over “in spite of several requests”?

Other potentially even more sinister questions are: “Is it true that the government is trying to find new partners for the concession. Namely Angolans? (By coincidence perhaps, President Marcelo is on an official visit to Angola this week), and “has the government handed over the deposits paid, officially ending these contracts”?

These and “many, many other questions, along with their answers are part of living in a democracy”, says the group, stressing it hopes it will be successful in getting the answers (see new story, on home page March 5).

[email protected]