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PM urged to declare Costa Vicentina drilling licences “null and void”

PALP, the anti-oil platform made up of environmental NGOs, has forged back onto the campaign scene just as the Repsol/ Partex consortium confirms that exploratory drilling off the coast of Faro – scheduled for October – has been kicked into the long grass.

Repsol/ Partex’s decision follows that by Galp/ Eni which declared it was indefinitely postponing prospection off the coast of Aljezur two weeks ago (click here).

As campaigners have stressed, this is not an end to the fight that has mobilised citizens groups up and down the country, as “indefinitely does not mean never”.

And this is where PALP has come in.

The group has sent a letter to Prime Minister António Costa stressing that the Galp/ Eni licences for concession areas dubbed Santola, Gamba and Lavagante actually come up for renewal in February 2017.

In an appeal also directed to the Ministry of the Sea, the group urges the government NOT to enter into renegotiations, but to just let the contracts slide.

PALP stresses that the contracts may have been signed in 2007, but their details were “only made public in 2015” at which point “thousands of Algarvians and Portuguese” started voicing opposition and outrage.

Thus “this is the opportune and possibly exceptional moment for the government to resolve the situation of concessions” that have been attributed along the coast of a protected natural park (the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina).

The government should reject both the request of TUPEM (licence for private use of a maritime area), and an extension of Galp/ Eni’s licence, as exploratory drilling did not go forwards in the years “legally stipulated”, says PALP – adding that the extension for public consultation won by anti-oil campaigners earlier this summer should not be used as any kind of excuse, as Galp/ Eni have had ample time in which they could have started drilling, and are now at the end of it.

But beyond scoring logistical points, PALP maintains the contracts fail to respect either national or European law, as they ride roughshod over “decrees and directives related to the preservation of natural habitats, and the necessity for a detailed environmental impact study, among others”.

PALP’s input, citing “the local economy, health and quality of life of populations”, comes just as elsewhere citizens’ groups have been busy on the Algarve’s beaches, gathering signatures for various petitions set up to force the government to “think again” over drilling licences that have been granted on land and at sea in almost every part of the country (see map).

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com