Parliament defeats bid to turn back from gas and oil exploration

Despite the overwhelming public outcry over plans to turn Portugal’s coastline into continuous drilling rig, MPs are adamant: gas and oil concessions must stay. Ruling Socialists, backed by PCP communists, centre-right PSD and CDS all voted yesterday against a joint bid by PAN (Peoples Animals Nature party) and Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) to call time on what the two parties consider ‘outmoded’ forms of energy at odds with all scientifically-backed forecasts on climate change.

For activists this was a “sad day for Portugal”.

Said Luís Rocha of FALA – the forum for the environment of the Alentejan coast: “Today, we saw one of the reasons why so many Portuguese no longer vote. We saw the discredibilisation of the political class and the stupidity that surrounds them.

“The majority in parliament have made it clear that the businesses that seek to destroy our environment and quality of life in exchange for small change have their blessing”.

Environmental engineer, activist and regular contributor to Público João Camargo said the parliamentary decision shows “enormous ignorance” of what this will mean for Portugal’s future – at the same time exposing the ‘lie’ behind past assertions that concessions were being attributed simply in order for the country to “understand its resources”.

“If the objective was “knowing resources” and not exploiting them, the BE/ PAN proposal would not have been defeated”, he writes in the latest post by the environmental group he leads, Climáximo.

In the Algarve, doyenne of the fight Laurinda Seabra posted a black and white photograph of a tearful baby, saying: “Whoever has children and grandchildren has a responsibility to demand a healthy future for them”.

The only way to do this, she says is “to make these politicians that have sold out to large corporations realise that they have gone too far in their arrogance and disrespect for the population, the environment, health and the economy…”

It is still ‘early days’ for reactions today. The vote was only taken yesterday afternoon, and many papers this morning are not even bothering to report on it.

What is certain however is that the decision taken by the political majority in Lisbon will not satisfy citizens groups, NGOs and the growing universe of activists that have been vowing to a man (and woman) over social media that the “struggle continues”.

Says Camargo in his latest post: “The movement against gas and oil exploration, today spread throughout the country, will use all tools to definitively stop prospection and exploration by oil companies in Portugal”.

And in Seabra’s view, the municipal elections upcoming in October will be a perfect opportunity for citizens to show politicians how they feel.

In the Facebook page that unites pioneering campaign group ASMAA with likeminded bodies in the Alentejo, she says the parliamentary decision actually goes against the Constitution in the way that politicians are meant to guarantee the basic rights of their electorate.

October’s voting will be a way of forcing MPs to take responsibility, she says – “whether in constitutional terms, or whether under Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” of the United Nations in 1948 which sets out that the “will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”.

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