Minister of the Sea fudges her way round oil exploration faux-pas

Minister of the Sea Ana Paula Vitorino has “refuted” the allegation that the government has been promoting the potential for exploration of Portugal’s deep-offshore reserves of oil and gas – despite being outed in a series of irrefutable video clips doing just that (click here).

In reply to questions from Faro’s PSD MP Cristóvão Norte, Vitorino is quoted as saying that the embarrassing presentation she made last September – in which she told her American audience: “deep offshore hydrocarbon exploration and production is another area where investment from US companies is welcome” – was not a promotion. It was “the presentation of a working document… with the objective of taking an inventory and identifying potential investment opportunities”.

Vitorino’s logic appears to stem from the early government mantra that issuing exploration licences has nothing to do with actually allowing drilling to go ahead – a protestation that has been blown right out of the water by activists who have since bothered to read the small print of all the contracts.

Thus, Vitorino’s answer to Cristóvão Norte was another step in the State ‘whitewash’ that deftly bypassed the crux of the issue: that she asserted drilling was going ahead before the results of the public consultation process had a chance to promote any meaningful debate.

The Resident has been in touch with Cristóvão Norte to hear his reaction to Vitorino’s reply, given a small space in today’s Correio da Manhã, under the headline “Minister refutes promotion”.

But her additional comments were that the working document “does not define any formal government position in the integrated strategy for the promotion of investment for the development of the economy of the sea”.

As Laurinda Seabra of anti-oil campaign group ASMAA commented: “This is another perfect example of what I call bull***t baffles brains.

“I have never heard so much hogwash in my life.

“Trying to allege that the government does not have a completely defined position over gas and oil exploration is like trying convince people that the earth is flat.

“After all, it is documented, it is in the public domain, and it is further clearly illustrated by the Power Point Presentation “Portugal Ocean Industry: A Strategy for achieving sustainable growth in the global economy”, presented at a meeting organised by the IGCP in Lisbon on February 8.

“Regarding the meeting in the US, I doubt that any minister would have gone into such details as to indicate that 679 million barrels of oil are estimated to be under the deep offshore region of bacia of Alentejo – which is right in front of the tourist and fishing paradise of Aljezur – if she wasn’t fishing for investors”.

“In fact at some stage in her presentation she clearly states that she would love to take some signed contracts home in her suitcase, but would be happy with some firm connections.

“Let’s get real … shall we?”

Cristóvão Norte was more reserved about the minister’s performance, simply suggesting that the government is not being transparent.

“What should be guaranteed is that all political options are taken with clarity in a way that they can be scrutinized by citizens”, he told us.

For a full view of the minister’s laboured presentation in English (click here). The section “not to miss”, say campaigners, comes at 46 minutes and 53 seconds.

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