I’m now going to share with you the experiences of the day.
When we arrived at Loule, we met with lots of friends, but we also saw lots of new faces, which was very heart-warming – as it means more people are waking-up and taking part in support of the anti-oil and gas exploration planned for the Algarve.
The organisations represented included ASMAA Algarve Surf & Marine Activities Association; Tavira Em Transição; Não ao fracking - Preservar Aljezur; Je Suis Ilheu, MALP/PALP; Grupo Anti-fracking Vila do Bispo, TTIP, Climáximo, BIZI (France), and Anti-Portagens na A22 as well as regional representatives of political parties from PAN and the VERDES (Green Party). In total we estimate that nearly 400 people were present.
But notably absent once more, were representatives from environmental NGO’s such as Quercus, SPEA, LPN or even from newly formed association ZERO – created by a Quercus’s dissent group. To be honest, I’m still to see any of their representatives at any events dealing with the anti-oil exploration campaign in the Algarve, although they are three of the bigger founding member organisations of PALP.
At ASMAA we took this opportunity to distribute 300 flyers with a petition form on the inside.
We could have distributed at least another 100.
This flyer/petition is the same one that we will be distributing throughout the Algarve from Odeceixe to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, starting on 30 May. The first distribution phase will see 30,000 being dropped at local businesses post boxes, and over 5000 will be found at local post office counters across the Algarve during one week in June. In total we planning on distributing 250,000 between June and end of August – making thus sure that every possible household will receive one, and that local people are made aware of what’s to come in the not far future.
The Prime Minister Arrives
Once the Prime Minister Antonio Costa arrived, the waiting demonstrators were very well behaved; the ones running were press journalist that run after him like swarms of bees. I must say, that as at that stage we did not know that the prime minister would make time to speak to representatives of the organisations present. As a result, I made sure that our letter was handed to him during his walk-about and was fortunate to have had a brief discussion with him about our concerns.
He replied to our concerns as follows: “ that in his opinion to invest in nature conservation and protection is to invest in the future of the Algarve as that’s where the real riches and true value lie, rather than investing in destructive activities below or above the soil, on land or at sea” … Indeed, a very nice message that we hope and trust will be followed by action on the part of his government. But only time will tell.
(Laurinda Seabra handing over ASMAA's letter and briefly speaking to Prime Minister Antonio Costa)
(Photo courtesy of jornal Sul Informacao)
Shortly thereafter, we were informed by members of the Prime Minister team, that the Prime Minister would indeed meet with a few representatives of the various organisations. A very welcome gesture as it’s not the norm on such events. And for this action, we do congratulate the prime minister for giving us of his time and for his willingness to listen to what we had to say.
The anti-oil groups representatives were told there was a 5-minute meeting set-up. And after a short period, we did indeed meet with him in a private room.
The group comprised of Laurinda Seabra from ASMAA, Joao Eduardo from MALP a PALP member, Rosa Guedes from Glocal another PALP member and who appears to be PALP’s official spokesperson, Ana Correia from Tavira in Transition and Graça Passos from TTIP.
(Prime Minister Antonio Costa in the meeting room)
As we entered the room, the Prime Minister jokingly said to me “we meet again” and showed me the ASMAA letter quite prominent in his folder. It was a lighthearted moment before answering my question about the serious issue of what was his government plans for the proposed offshore and onshore oil and gas exploration saga planned for the Algarve.
The prime minister replied by focusing initially on the onshore issue, and touched briefly on the Portfuel well drilled in Aljezur, and basically told us what we already know and has been widely written about in the mainstream media – that he was waiting feedback from the Attorney General’s office – bur focusing primarily on the offshore issue of Portfuel.
(Ana Correia from Tavira in Transition and Laurinda Seabra from ASMAA with Rosa Guedes from PALP (cut off in picture) during her intervention)
But before, anything else could be discussed, and while the prime minister was still busy answering my question, he was interrupted (rudely in my opinion) by Joao Eduardo from MALP (which is also a member of PALP), who demanded an answer about his intention regarding the Partex/Repsol planned exploratory drilling scheduled for October. But before the Prime Minister could really answer the question posed by Joao Eduardo, he was once again rudely interrupted by Rosa Guedes from PALP which challenged the Prime Minister into an argument about the law – which was in my personal opinion totally inappropriate for that meeting, and served nothing more than to eat into the allocated time and prevented other representatives from posing their questions or to give their opinions.
Nonetheless, Graça Passos from TTIP, managed to pose a question regarding the CETA and TTIP negotiations and about the government stand point about it. The prime minister answered by saying that the government does not support the clauses regarding the power to be held by the international tribunal, but that his government is closely observing the developments. It was an unclear answer that served to raise some doubts about which interests is his government looking after – the people or the corporations?
As we were leaving Joao Eduardo handed over a letter on behalf of PALP.
And that was all there was time for!
In my opinion, the behaviour of some of the representatives meant that an opportunity was lost to really ask pertinent questions and to get real answers, and served for nothing more than to give our prime minister a quick way out to avoid addressing the real issues regarding the oil and gas exploration onshore and offshore and which are of serious concern for all the Algarve lovers.
Download a copy of the letter that ASMAA handed to our Prime Minister in the attachment section below
Author: Laurinda Seabra from ASMAA