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DGRM & ENMC Public Consultations in July on ENI/Galp process: The “Show” - Act I

In July I was challenged to review the latest Portuguese oil and gas drilling "Show". A show created to appease and provide answers to mainly local and very vocal spectators.


The “Show” review and opinion by Laurinda Seabra


The lead-up

When a show is put on by any organisation, the least one can expect is that the “show” will be well publicized and that the targeted audience would be given advance and timeous notice about the “show”.

Instead the first official public notification was six days before the event, and which included a weekend – it’s not surprising that only a few people got word of it.

For serious and ethical organisations, we would have expected to see the event listed on bulletin boards at local municipalities that would be directly affected, parishes, major newspapers, all being very well displayed, and off course in timely fashion.

We would expect of any organisation running a show to have a website with a well-structured framework of information which would facilitate participation from a broader sector of local communities.

Instead it was left to one local municipality (Aljezur) to share the news of the event, and to community groups to mobilise some local support at very short notice. Our own association went so far as to run costly adverts on Facebook to spread the word as wide as possible.

All our combined efforts resulted in about 80 people being present in the Aljezur event, two journalists from Algarve and an American Documentary Film crew that we invited to record the proceedings, and a contingent from Galp and ENI including someone from their PR department.

In Portimao our joint efforts resulted in about 30 people attending, which included 6 people that had also been at the Aljezur “show” as well as the same oil companies’ representatives.


The Plot

The DGRM and the ENMC hastily cooked-up a poorly planned and executed public sessions in an endeavour to pour some water on a raging fire of opposition which resulted in a knee-jerk reaction, to the massive public outcry against the granting of a licence for offshore oil and gas drilling by the government departments.

In the run up to these meetings, allegations of unfair practices and potential unlawful decision making needed to be diffused.

The cast consisted of senior public servants, supported by a few of their staff, but the “show” directors and producers came from the oil companies’ stables.


The Review

I've attended hundreds of public consultation meetings in my lifetime, but I must say that the two run by the DGRM and ENMC on 12 and 14 July 2016, really took first prize in incompetence, hogwash and attempted brainwashing.

It resembled a mix between stand-up comedy and a Greek tragedy.

From statements from the DGRM chair (Jose Manuel Marques) of having to take a “Valium” before proceedings in Portimão, to statements of "I'm tired ... oh so tired, to "I want to go home" to insinuations of I'm doing you all a favour ... I want to get back to my family in Lisbon and my 4 kids ... to "I'm just a poor public servant" ... and many others in the same tone right through the proceedings. I was left with the feeling that maybe the DGRM head needs to find another job as it was evident that he could not cope well with the requirements of the “Show” that were placed on him.

Couple above with the fact that in the first session held in Aljezur there was an attempt to prevent the live recording and the filming of the public consultation with arguments that they had to protect their privacy ... leading one to question, if it was a private (behind closed doors consultation) or a public consultation? In the end the proceedings were indeed recorded by two different sources.



Overall, could the two sessions really be considered to have met the requirements of a public consultation?

Not at all ... there was no consultation as most of the questions posed by the audience were left unanswered, or were answered with hogwash rhetoric and lacking of substance.

All in all if it were not for the theatrical value of the proceedings it would have been a total waste of time.

But credit where credit is due, in Portimão two unrelated pieces of information were dropped by ENMC representatives … but that is to be continued in Act II.



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