On Friday there were 5 key proposals from political parties - PAN, BE, PCP, PEV (Green party) and the PS, of those, only the following points were approved:
- The immediate suspension of the development of oil and gas exploration by conventional or unconventional methods in the Algarve. (BE)
- That EIA’s (Environmental Impact Assessments) be made obligatory from initial exploration phases. (PS)
- That EIA’s should be requested, so as to assess all oil & gas exploration and production risks, and identify risk mitigating or eliminating processes. (PCP)
- Motivate a socio-economic study, with a special focus on impacts that oil exploration and production may have on economic sectors with a special focus on the tourism sector. (PCP)
- That results of the assessment of all contracts be published; that should any irregularities be found then that the necessary steps be taken to rescind them; that the government shall retain all rights under its jurisdiction to take the appropriate measures required. (PS)
Above are the key components of what was approved on 1 July 2016.
All other proposals were rejected.
True to form the parties that maintained its staunch anti-position has been the PSD and CDS by voting against nearly every single proposal of all the other parties. But we should not be surprised, after all most contracts were signed under their mandate, and least we forget, the PSD was the only Portuguese party in the European Parliament that voted in favour of fracking in February this year. (Click here to refresh your memory by reading about it again). (A fact that all should remember during municipal elections next year when you casting your vote - in my opinion)
But what does it mean? What’s the bottom line?
- EIA’s and socio-economic studies will have to be done and made available to various parties.
- An investigation into contract awarding process will be done and its findings published. Such findings may or may not lead to rescinding of contracts.
- Exploration is temporary on hold.
Note: But the voting that took place on Friday is of an advisory capacity only, and its up to the government to implement the approved points. We believe that the government has taken note and will act in the correct form.
So, can we really label above as a small victory? We would say so.
For starters, the pressure exerted by ASMAA, which since 2012 has been running public awareness raising programs, which in turn motivated the creation of many anti-oil community pressure groups in the Algarve in the past 9-months, coupled with all the people that signed petitions, attended sessions and protests – it can’t be argued that it is having the desired effect and is paying at long-last dividends for all the effort, money and other resources thrown at this situation - the government is starting to listen. Together we have all ensured that the matter was brought from under the carpet into broad daylight, and is now being debated across the country, in political circles, and even in the Portuguese Parliament where it has been debated often this year, the matter was tabled by all parties and voted last friday. That in itself is a major achievement. And in our opinion - a solid victory for citizen power and civil activism.
Let's not forget that more and more people are being informed everyday across the country; that other community pressure groups are being formed all over Portugal; and that the government has realised that they can’t just ignore public opinion and carry on with business as usual tactics. That is a victory too. It has been a long road, we’ve made some major progress, but we are not at the ultimate destination yet.
So yes. We count what took place last friday as a small victory and as a step in the right direction, but much more still needs to happen. I can hear you asking: But what about the contracts? Why were they not cancelled outright? Hasn’t the government lost a perfect opportunity to do so?
As I’ve said before, (you can read about it here – Why can’t the Portuguese Government just cancel the contracts?), it would be extremely dangerous for the country long-term economic sustainability to just cancel the contracts outright. I know that many other people and organisations are advocating such an action. But in our opinion to just proceed indiscriminately it is extremely risky for Portugal, its taxpayers, and its population.
There are legal processes that need to be followed if the country is to avoid having to pay hefty compensation amounts to oil & gas companies – we talking about 15 contracts over a 50 year time line, with claims that it will be in its billions per company/contract. The claims will be ridiculous, and a legal battle will last decades and cost plenty. In addition should the government follow that route they would be placed in a position in which they would have to defend themselves, wouldn’t they? We believe there is another alternative.
The alternative (if there is real political will and leaders with “guts”) is to launch a thorough investigation going back to the beginning, do a proper forensic investigation of the adjudication and negotiating process, and do not be scared to take the appropriate action to initiate legal procedures against a number of possibly well connected individuals who have negotiated, authorised or/and signed such detrimental contracts on behalf of Portugal.
We are of the opinion that if such an investigation was to take place, that the government could find that they are indeed grounds to legally have many of the contracts declared null and void, and thus save the country and future generations a hefty economic burden and years of costly legal battles.
But let’s look again at cancelling the contracts. Ok. Let’s say the government would be willing to cancel them outright. What will happen afterwards?
You can expect new tenders, and new oil and gas exploration and production concession contracts being awarded in much tighter terms and with the correct process followed, which it will be harder to contest. Is that what you really want?
What is our vision?
That all current contracts be declared null and void and rescinded without any major financial implications for the country, and that the government afterwards passes a law declaring that Portugal will not issue any new oil and gas exploration concessions nor award contracts for it, instead Portugal will issue new concessions and contracts in the same locations for wind, solar and wave technology processes or any other proven green energy technology.
Now, is that not really worth fighting for?
If you think so, then if you haven't done so yet, sign the petitions, and share them via email and social media.
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