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Oil Exploration After Elections: Will Mayors and Councillors do the right thing if re-elected?

On October 1st, municipal elections are going to take place all over the country in Portugal. Some mayors and councillors will be re-elected and some won’t.

Last year a “strong” and veiled warning was given to anti-oil activists during a meeting, which brought with it some serious concerns.

 

We where blatantly told that it would be in our best interest (anti-oil activists) to ensure that current municipal leadership would be re-elected in 2017, as after all they publicly supported the anti-oil fight.

 

Some background

ASMAA and some of its current executive, has been involved since 2010 in awareness raising campaigns about proposed oil and gas exploration in the Algarve and the risk that it will bring to local communities, the local economy and our natural ecosystems, and since 2016 in the Alentejo coastal region in collaboration with local community groups.

During that period we’ve observed that the majority of municipal executives have only one thing on their minds:

 

preserving their political careers and maintaining national party leadership happy by following party directives and not straying too far away from national party decisions – in other words “thou shall follow the party line, because to go against it equates to political career suicide”.

 

From 2012 to 2015 local municipal leaders blatantly ignored various attempts by the public to get them to show their stance on the oil and anti-gas drilling risk to their local communities. It was only when the very real threat of onshore fracking was placed in their backyards with the award of contracts to Sousa Cintra’s Portfuel company that for the first time they publicly voiced their objections. No doubt that the massive public outcry around the risk of fracking greatly helped them reach that decision.

But let's not forget, that during the previous years – municipal mayors had received thousands of emails and letters demanding answers, and as far as we are aware, not one official reply was received by anyone.  We ourselves did not receive one neither. (Here’s a link to a sample letter that we uploaded to our site on 21 October 2013 – and as you can see, it was seen by thousands of people. Current count is over 17,500. On 30 September 2015 we updated list of contacts to reflect current leadership in the Algarve)

 

So why are we raising this warning now?

Two very valid reasons

1. Because the government wants to “drill baby drill” instead of “leave it in the ground”

  1. On 11 January 2017 (read more), the Minister of the Sea authorised the granting of a TUPEM licence to GALP/ENI before all maters relating to the Public Consultation had been finalised.
  2. On 12 July 2017 (read more), the Minister of the Sea has effectively confirmed in writing that she had with the scratch of a pen eliminated 42,000 objections to GALP/ENI TUPEM licence as if they don’t exist.

And,

If you’ve been following our news and articles broadcasts you would have noticed that according to news and views coming out of Portuguese parliament, that the Portuguese government is hell bent on drilling for oil and gas both onshore and offshore.

If you haven’t read about yet, we’ve compiled a list of articles for you to get an idea of what has transpired just in the last few days. Just search the site.

 

2. Mayors ignoring recent requests for responses

On 11 May various oil and gas exploration legal proposals where voted in parliament by MPs. (You can read about it here)

We decided to wait for comments from local mayors about the above voting. On the week of the 18, we where happy to see that Jose Amarelinho voiced his strong opposition. (You can read it in PT here)

So, we wrongly assumed that further opposition comments would be voiced by other mayors or even AMAL. But as the days passed, we realised that they needed to be prompted. So we decided to email each and everyone of them, including Odemira, with the following message on the 20 of May.

 

“In view of the vote that took place in the Portuguese parliament on the 11 May, which once again reinforced government support for offshore and onshore oil exploration in Portugal, we would appreciate your comments and a position statement. We are deeply concerned about the lack of a public statement or press-release about the subject matter from yourselves. We look forward to your prompt reply.”

 

Due to the fact that we know that mayors are busy, we decided to give them sufficient time to reply, but when by the 6 of June, we saw that there was no forthcoming reply, we once again emailed them. We referred to our previous email and gave them a deadline of 8 June.

 

Out of that second broadcast we received a reply from Lagos mayor, Joaquina Matos, reinforcing the council anti-oil drilling position. It was to be the ONLY reply we would receive from that email.

 

Now we had two mayors that had addressed our concern - Aljezur and Lagos.

The balance of 15 mayors (14 from Algarve and Odemira in Alentejo), or from AMAL we didn’t hear a word - except that we now faced the reality that both our emails had once again simply been ignored.  This took us back to the hundreds of “oil exploration risk and council positioning” emails that we had over the years sent the various mayors and to which we didn’t get any replies. This is a matter of serious concern, and we view it in a very serious light.

 

It has led us to question the veracity of their “official position”, and to wonder what will happen if they are elected once again – will they really be supportive of their constituents or will they just follow “orders” from party leaders and we will find them supporting oil and gas exploration in their council regions in the future?

 

In the weeks leading up to elections we will put them to the test. More information about what we will be doing shortly.

 

 

 

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  • ASMAA - Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association
    NIPC: 510 381 952
    Tel: 00 351 282 182 103
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    asmaa-algarve.org
    Rua Dr. Alberto Iria
    Lote 12, R/C Esq
    Porto de Môs
    Lagos 8600-580
    Portugal
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