Motion of no confidence falls – but Costa’s choice of forestry overlord labelled “weird”

Parliament this afternoon has rejected the CDS motion of no confidence, with MPs exchanging insults over how the country’s forests have ended up so vulnerable to raging wildfires.

But as PS Socialists remain at the helm, initiating a widespread reform, the choice of forestry overlord is causing concern.

Says the government’s Bloco de Esquerda allies, it is both “surprising and weird”.

Tiago Martins Oliveira was the author of a study ordered into forestry risks back in 2006. He proposed a reform of the system, though his ideas were rejected “by the government of José Sócrates in which António Costa was then Minister for Internal Administration”, reports Público.

Since then the 48-year-old who holds a doctorate in the management of forest fires, has gone on to represent companies in the cellulose industry: Portucel and more recently The Navigator Company (the new name for the old Portucel Soporcel group).

“It’s legitimate that people question” this kind of appointment, agreed Heloisa Apolónia of the Greens in parliament today.

But prime minister Costa has defended his choice of Oliveira to run the “Structure of the Mission for Rural Fires”, saying: “Tiago Oliveira is not a shareholder nor does he have an interest in Navigator. He is an employee of Navigator”.

Costa stressed that he chose the forestry expert because of his “base of experience as a firefighter, forestry sapper and due to his academic qualifications”.

“For these reasons, I trust him completely for this mission”, he said.

Oliveira has worked with the governments of Durão Barroso, in the office of secretary of state for forestry, and José Sócrates – in the department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

It was PSD prime minister Santana Lopes who commissioned the National Plan for Forestry Defence from Fires which Oliveira prepared, only to see it rejected by the incoming PS Executive.

But according to Bloco de Esquerda he remains “indelibly marked” by his link to the cellulose industry.

Said MP Pedro Soares: “It seems the government hasn’t learnt anything” from the fires in June and earlier this month that killed 110 people and devastated over 500,000 hectares, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

“It is surprising that the government indicates a person to preside over a structure – and for a job equivalent to that of secretary of state – who independent of his technical qualities has been linked to the cellulose industry which holds so much responsibility for the chaos in which our forests find themselves”.

Público adds that Soares highlighted the blame pulping companies have in the “proliferation of eucalyptus and the unregulated mix between this species and pines trees that has played an explosive role in the lack of control of fires”.

But for now, Oliveira’s appointment sticks, and the mission – one of the many measures approved at the extraordinary Council of Ministers convened last Saturday (click here) – runs until December 2018.

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