A feelgood moment in Sines yesterday saw Left Bloc coordinator Catarina Martins unveil an election banner declaring “Futuro without drilling: Oil companies Out!”
Claiming the fight against the country’s first drilling field 46 kms off the coast of Aljezur is won, she said the new proviso giving borough councils a say in the awarding of future contracts would ensure the people’s voice continues to be heard.
It was a speech that left a pregnant silence as anti-oil groups are very much aware that
councils’ opinions will be merely taken as such – opinions, with absolutely no weight in law.
If the government wants to award new concession contracts, it will – no matter what local authorities say, explain campaigners.
Worse – and this comes from inside information that has to remain anonymous – is that new contracts for existing concession areas in the Algarve Basin are currently being negotiated behind-the-scenes.
Cancellation of contracts does not mean that there will not be new contracts in the future, nor does it stop the government from entering into new contracts with any interested party.
In other words, the cancellation of contracts is only a deterrent, reducing the immediate risk of offshore drilling in April off Aljezur.
A source told us: “The parties are all worried about the municipal elections. They seem to be prepared to say anything to win votes”.
What Martins did say, however, was that oil and gas exploration “could have terrible environmental consequences for the country quite apart from the contracts being absolutely absurd for the Portuguese State from a financial point of view”, “giving profits to a few against the interests of almost everyone”.
In that respect, at least, there was no contention.
Catarina Martins made her speech in the company of party candidates for Sines council, and two of MPs, adding that “Bloco de Esquerda will continue pushing for new general legislation that promotes a new environmental paradigm and protects us from the concerns that have unsettled the country in recent years”.
The threat of drilling “puts the best of what this country has at risk”, she told her audience, and the fight to preserve the environment being waged by populations is “extraordinarily important”.