Peniche’s anti-oil fight gains traction with petition and protest on the Berlengas islands

A petition to contest government-backed plans for oil exploration in Peniche was launched by local anti-oil group Peniche Livre de Petróleo (PLP) last Sunday (August 21) on the stunning Berlengas islands, just west off the town.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of its Algarvean counterparts, the group wants to show the state that locals do not agree with any oil projects that threaten the “local economy, tourism, agriculture, fishing” and everything in-between.

“Oil and gas production ends quickly. After the extraction period, companies leave and the locations become oil cemeteries,” PLP co-founder Ricardo Vicente told Público newspaper.

“And if we are left without our natural heritage, then we also lose the local economy,” he added.

The risk of losing natural attractions to a potential oil disaster has been stressed by campaigners all over Portugal who believe the government is putting too much on the line by allowing these contracts to move forward.

This is one of the reasons Berlengas was chosen for the launch of the petition.

“The Berlengas archipelago is a beloved location, included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves,” Vicente said.

He added, however, that “the islands are not the only locations in danger”.

“The environmental impact (of the oil plans) extend to a much larger area and represent not just environmental dangers, but economic and social,” he said.

Instead, PLP believes Portugal should focus on renewable energies. “It is one of the countries with the most potential,” said Ricardo Vicente.

“Investing in oil is choosing a path that is reaching its end,” he added.

Environmental group Quercus also joined the chorus of anti-oil pleas, saying these “irresponsible” projects could have “dramatic consequences”.

“By choosing this path, the country is going against the things that it agreed to at the climate change summit” in Paris earlier this summer.

Quercus member Nuno Sequeira added that oil exploration “is not compatible with tourism destinations of excellence, such as the Algarve and Peniche”.

Peniche mayor António José Correia was much more subdued in his choice of words.

“In our opinion, there isn’t much to say yet as what’s at stake now are just exploration studies,” he told Público.

Still, he said the council is “available to take part in debates and welcomes the anti-oil movement and anyone else interested in discussing this topic”.

Meantime, anyone interested in signing the petition can do so online at https://penichelivredepetroleo.wordpress.com/