Navy defuses Ria Formosa ‘bombshell’

Last week’s bombshell delivered by the head of the Navy during a celebration on the Ria Formosa island of Culatra has been deftly defused, ensuring that environmentalists do not lodge a complaint with the European Commission.

As readers may recall, NGO Almargem was swift to question the Navy’s “return” to using its run-down base in the middle of the island, beside the residential nucleus of Hangares, for “operations of great complexity, sophistication and description”.

The implication given by Admiral Silva Ribeiro was that there would be a return to military training ops involving the defusing of explosives – something Almargem was instrumental in calling a halt to 22 years ago (click here).

But the ‘bombshell’ that set tongues wagging back and forth across the paradise lagoon has now been defused by the Navy’s press spokesman Pedro Coelho Dias.

In an answer to questions submitted by Jornal Barlavento, Coelho Dias stresses that commitments assumed 22 years ago remain “immaculate and unaltered”.

The Navy has never suggested any kind of “operations involving the disembarkation of explosives, their inactivation, explosion or indeed the training of military with live ammunition” – fully aware that Hangares is slap in the middle of the ‘protected’ Ria Formosa natural park.

Said Coelho Dias, all Navy ops will go ahead with “profound respect for the quality of life of citizens and for the natural vocation of Culatra island for fishing activities and sustainable eco-tourism”.

Yes, the Navy is intent on making more use of what he terms “that important military perimeter” but only in a “sporadic way, and as a form of logistical support for Naval operations, namely to support other State departments with specific competences in combating illegalities at sea”.

It was a far cry from the picture painted the week before by Admiral Silva Ribeiro, but it has served to calm rattled nerves.

In 12 bullet-point paragraphs, Coelho Dias clinically erased the Admiral’s speech, even explaining that the reason for the new ‘finger’ to the renovated quay will have little to do with ‘training ops’ but be more concerned with facilitating the comings and goings of speedboats as they intercept drug-traffickers on the high seas.

With Almargem, and no doubt thousands of others, breathing sighs of relief, nothing is being said about the explosive devices that wash up on Culatra’s coast from time to time, requiring controlled detonations. The last incident came in November 2015 (click here).

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