Anti-oil campaigners who have been working flat out preparing their point-by-point objections to oil and gas drilling contracts in the Algarve got the news they had been waiting for today (Friday).
Parliament voted to suspend plans for hydrocarbon exploration and extraction in the region, kicking the first oil-drilling date on the calendar – due to have started 45km off the coast of Aljezur today but officially extended until 3 August – almost certainly into the long grass.
“It is not the perfect”, said one of the leading campaigners. “But it is a step in the right direction”.
CEO of ASMAA (Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association) Laurinda Seabra explained that the government cannot actually afford to just cancel all the 15 contracts signed by the last administration. The penalties for the country would simply be too high.
“But they can stall them”, she told us, and that is exactly what the vote in parliament has done.
According to Jornal de Notícias, voting by the PS, Bloco de Esquerda, PCP communists, PEV (Green Party) and PAN (People Animals Nature) recommends that the government suspends all conventional and non-conventional exploration and extraction while the environmental consequences of the licenses in place are properly evaluated.
MPs from the centre-right PSD – the party that granted oil and gas concessions up and down the country – voted against the recommendations, while their allies in the last government, the CDS-PP, abstained.
Considering the extraordinary efforts made by ASMAA and other community groups over the last few weeks, today’s news could not have been more heartening.
“Everything is now on hold”, said Seabra, “which means we have extra time in which to question the authorities and demand they release pertinent information regarding the processes from tender stage right up to current, which we will can then have an opportunity to evaluate and where appropriate, debunk.
Meantime, various awareness initiatives are planned as part of the public consultation process, which fuel entity DGRM is now forced to do, on instruction from the environment Minister. The first one is scheduled for July 12 at 6.30pm in Aljezur fire station and the next is in Portimao on July 14 (venue and time to be confirmed).
For more information on this ongoing battle to save the Algarve from the dangers posed by oil and gas exploration, see ASMAA Algarve Surf & Marine Activities Association Facebook page.