Peniche “wakes up” as anti-oil fight swings into heightened gear for summer

As August approaches, community groups that have been vociferous since last year in opposition to government-backed plans for oil and gas exploration along the coast are shifting into heightened gear.

Throughout the Algarve, anti-oil initiatives are being planned along the beaches to press home what campaigners see as the threat to the region’s environment, economy and peace of mind.

But elsewhere too groups are forming.

As campaign stalwarts told the Resident last week: “Peniche has woken up.”

In an arena where we already have PALP (the Platform for an Oil-free Algarve) and MALP (the movement for an oil-free Algarve), we now have PLP – Peniche Free of Oil, a group that will be holding its first working meeting on Saturday (August 2) at 7pm on the rocky peninsula’s Baleal beach.

PLP emerged last week, with a passionate manifesto in which it referred not only to Portugal’s commitment to the climate change summit in Paris earlier this year, but to “abundant episodes where the security system of extraction equipment has failed, causing authentic environmental catastrophes”.

Itemising the concessions that now surround everyone living in the area (“They want to corral us with oil extraction on land and sea”), the group stresses that the economy of the sea “is the principal support of the local population”.

Extraction licences now put this economy – which stretches from fishing, to water sports, tourism and “the simple pleasure of observing coastal and maritime landscapes” – at risk.

The group says it does “not accept that the future of upcoming generations should be hocked in favour of immediate profits to millionaire businesses” and that it is therefore “joining forces with those who refuse to resign themselves” to a future mapped out by others.

“We want life, we want biodiversity, we want to swim in the blue waters of the Atlantic, we want to surf, the fishing and the summer sun. We want Peniche free of oil,” ends the manifesto.

Peniche Livre de Petróleo came onto the scene just as Público carried an opinion article in which journalist José Vítor Malheiros maintained that “fighting oil and gas is not simply the right thing to do. It is a matter of survival”.

Sábado, too, has covered the controversy, carrying the views of climate change researcher João Camargo who dubs exploration plans on land and off the coast near Aljezur “crimes”, for which the worst reaction could be “civil obedience”.

“When we talk about crimes like those in Aljezur, our greatest problem is not civil disobedience, but civil obedience. The first can never be dismissed from the sphere of action of movements that have to triumph,” he concludes.

Thus the scene is set for a summer in which activists will be doing anything but lying around on the beach.

In fact, beaches are where Algarve community groups are taking their fight.

Last week Tavira, this week Aljezur (Praia da Arrifana’s Festival de Pescadores), next week Vila do Bispo – and we’re informed that there could be a major attraction there to kick-start the anti-oil movement into the national and international headlines.

Watch this space, in other words, while ASMAA – one of the longest-standing groups in the anti-oil campaign – launches its ‘Banners on the Beach’ initiative on Wednesday, August 3 to run for a month till September 3. For more details, see ASMAA’s Facebook page.

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