Photo: FABIO MARCELINO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Olhão mayor ‘grilled’ in television exposé on Armona island’s threatened demolitions

Olhão mayor António Pina has been ‘grilled’ on national television over his potential responsibility for the threatened demolition of 144 homes on Armona island.

An exposé by CMTV (owned by the Cofina group) aired last night appeared relentless in its zeal to blame the mayor – who is also president of AMAL (the association of Algarve municipalities) – for ‘authorising construction on parts of the island on Public Maritime land that are not under council jurisdiction.

There were long shots of Mr Pina shuffling papers in silence.

The opening sentences described “houses of the president” against a backdrop of homeowners attesting to “corruption” and “dubious cases”.

“Do you understand that you may lose your mandate with activity like this?” investigator Ana Leal prodded. “You authorised these houses…”

“No, no”, insisted Mr Pina. “The council authorised them…”

The half hour slot was an excruciatingly uncomfortable view of a situation that has been simmering for years.

The Resident brought the nightmare case of Britons James Tod and Paul Roseby back in 2017 (click here).

The horrors experienced by this show business couple were already ‘threatening’ to haunt well over 140 others homeowners – and now the situation appears to have crystallized – essentially because Mr Pina’s attempts to sway the environment ministry to the council’s point of view seem to have fallen short.

As for CM’s investigation, it will have done little for Mr Pina’s personal standing.

Armona residents accused the council of being open to bribes of ‘tens of thousands’ to save certain properties from demolition, of increasing local taxes by as much as 500% to ‘get rid of people who can’t pay’ and make way for richer residents…

It was all unsubstantiated, but nonetheless viewers were left with the impression that ‘there is never any smoke without fire’.

But why now? Why has a situation which has existed for so many years suddenly hit national television now?

It appears to be linked with the government’s need to finally settle the PIR (project for intervention and requalification) for Armona.

Again, this PIR has been more than a long time coming. CM suggests the delay has been due to a ‘battle of wills’ between environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes and António Pina.

This is possibly simplistic. A statement from Mr Matos Fernandes refers to the PIR being elaborated “respecting the rules of the POOC (coastal plan) by the services of the ministry” – which are APA, the Portuguese environment agency, and Polis.

APA and Polis are the agencies that have forever been behind the threat of demolitions on all the barrier islands, which they see as requiring a gradual emptying of human residents for ‘the good of the environment’.

According to reports, the PIR appears finally to be ‘about to be signed’ – and thus very possibly the impetus for this television exposé.

As to its content – and what it will mean for Armona – that’s the big question.

Matos Fernandes was described as refusing to answer much of the 12 questions submitted by CMTV – for example he would not be drawn on how many houses may be demolished, nor when this demolition will take place. But what he did say was telling:

“This PIR is more demanding than existing regulations, which will oblige a reduction in the concession area (the area run by Olhão Council) and intransigent respect for the protection of the barrier islands, particularly regarding the risk of flooding”.

CMTV suggests this means “hundreds of properties could be at risk”, not simply the 144 that have been built on Public Maritime land, outside the council’s jurisdiction.

Matos Fernandes’ words show that the government “considers the management of Armona island… will always be better performed in proximity with the municipality” but that there may be a point at which this proximity is ‘forced’ to suit the central narrative.

In other words, focus is back on ‘what will happen on Armona’ as hundreds of homes hang in the balance – and how CMTV’s slant of the story will affect the local standing of the long-term Socialist mayor.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

For a stunning look at the beauty of Armona, see this video by Maximilian Xavier on Youtube, click here