The Algarve's weekly newsletter: Port, Peniche, power and pulp

Dear reader

A week’s news and views from the Algarve...

A group of Portugal’s top scientists, many presumably are dependent on State funding for their work, have published an open letter to condemn the government’s policy on oil and gas exploration, citing “...irreparable damage to the economy, the environment and to communities” from the continuation of a carbon-based energy model based on local extraction.

Seventy scientists signed the letter which states that the exploitation of fossil fuels is "one of the great problems" that must be faced, "because persisting in a carbon-greedy economy defrauds the population of their expectations, destroys land, seas and rivers, the atmosphere and irreplaceable chains of life."

Many agree and the government is being pushed by the weight of public opinion to rethink its flawed ‘get rich quick’ oil revenue policy which was poorly thought out, covertly driven by oil company lobbying and is not in accord with Portugal’s internationally agreed CO2 reduction commitments.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11524-portugal-s-scientists-speak-out-against-oil-and-gas-exploration

Portugal has no mainstream nuclear power station and always has been wary of Spain’s Almaraz nuclear plant 100 kms over the border, due east of Castelo Branco in the central region.

Fears are well-founded as the ageing Spanish plant has a history of safety problems and equipment failures.

When the Spanish wanted to extend the plant to build a facility to take in spent nuclear fuel from Almaraz and other of Spain’s nuclear power stations, Portugal complained to Brussels using established cross-border legislation.

The not-so-often-sober Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, forced Portugal to drop its complaint, which the government meekly agreed to do, and to commission an environment impact report from the Portuguese Environment Agency.

This report came out on Friday and has provoked widespread condemnation as the Portuguese Environment Agency failed to ask environmental NGOs to contribute, while claiming that they had been consulted, failed to look at nuclear accident impacts from the end-of-life plant and failed to address any potential effects of a radioactive leak into the Tagus river, which later flows through Portugal as the Tejo.

You have to ask yourself, what is the objective of an environmental impact report, if not to look at the environmental impact?

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11554-almaraz-nuclear-report-whitewash-will-keep-eu-happy

Portugal’s Environment Agency laughably concluded that it is "appropriate and safe" for Spain to build the nuclear waste dump next to the Tagus.

In preparing the technical report, the ‘yes men’ working group said it had looked at nuclear safety information provided by the Spanish Government, (the Spanish already have roundly been criticised for withholding key documents) as well as input from environmental movements and organisations.

Any input from NGOs was dismissed as environmentalists’ views clearly did not accord with the objective of this whitewash.

This is such a blatant stitch-up that the Ministers of the Environment and Foreign Affairs have been called to parliament to explain their parts in the rigged report.

Juncker successfully bullied Portugal into dropping its complaint about Almaraz. This report is exactly what the EC president wanted but the storm it has caused throws shame on the António Costa government, the Portuguese Environment Agency, the Directorate-General for Health and the President of the Order of Engineers.

This report is a disgrace - as are the authors who may have hung on to their jobs but not their reputations.  

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11563-ministers-called-to-parliament-to-explain-rigged-report-on-almaraz

On area of national policy that has been welcomed by environmentalists concerns the country’s ever-expanding eucalyptus forests.

The government now has banned additional areas from being planted with this thirsty tree, the industry will have to increase yield from existing forests if it needs more wood for its pulp mills.

Papaer industry boss, Paulo Fernandes, did the industry no favours by criticising the prime minster to his face when launching a new investment back in January, moaning that “We do not agree with those who, sitting in offices and not knowing what a forest looks like, are limited to creating obstacles as if forestry somehow is taking advantage of society and the country.”

This eucalyptus monoculture has taken advantage of the environment and society and the halting of additional eucalyptus forests will benefit local eco-systems.

The “incorrect and preconceived ideas” that the government is accused of having by the pulp industry, in fact stem from wide consultation and the recognition that the pulp industry is not the only party involved in Portugal’s countryside.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11532-ban-on-further-eucalyptus-forests-enrages-portugal-s-pulp-industry

Another area where government intervention in agriculture will benefit the nation has been the halting of a red fruit production business on land near Luz da Tavira, under which lie the remains of the Roman city of Balsa.

The farmland was leased to a Spanish fruit company but when work started to build greenhouses and install irrigation, a complaint by a foreign resident led to the halting of further work as there was a clear danger of damaging Roman artefacts and structures.

An archaeological survey company has started careful excavation work. Hopefully, this will lead to the discovery of part of the large Roman port.

After centuries under the Algarve’s soil, the site could well become one of the region’s most visitied treasures.

As for the landowner, his long-running reticence to recognise the value of the remains below the ground should be halted - the State should purchase the farm, or lease it in perpetuity.

Well done to Alexandra Gonçalves, the Director of the Culture Directorate for the Algarve, who ensured the damaging construction work by Suerexport was halted, and made sure the vital and long-overdue archaeological work was started.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11531-the-algarve-s-roman-port-of-balsa-being-studied-by-specialist-team-of-archaeologists

One part of the Algarve’s culture that is being eroded is the stock of beautiful old townhouses, especially in Faro and Olhão, where destruction by builders remains commonplace despite all the council clap-trap abut ‘valuing our heritage’.

Councils display blinding ignorance when faced with a request for demolition from ‘well known’ local builders and the number of invaluable buildings that have been bulldozed this year alone shows Mammon firmly in the driving seat.

Faro’s citizens now have the opportunity of doing something about the destruction of their history as a local architect and a ‘heritage activist’ have announced a public meeting for May 5th to define the problem and to suggest answers.

The similar situation in Olhão is not helped by the continued employment of Ditza Reis as head of the Urban Planning department who, while waiting for her court appearance on a €6.5 million property scam, has overseen the destruction of a selection of the city’s valuable and irreplaceable old buildings, to be substituted by bland, modern hotels and hostels of zero architectural merit.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11564-citizens-fight-developers-to-save-faro-s-old-buildings

Over in Tavira, questions about the five-year delay in repairing the bridge and walkways at the Pego do Inferno beauty spot have seen mayor Jorge Botelho, clearly caught on the hop, waffling away about a “charter of principles” and “sustainability,” while doing nothing.

The lack of action by Tavira council is shameful and now, in a council election year, the mayor is repeating last year’s evasive platitudes while doing nothing to reopen the much-loved waterfall and natural pool so that those wanting a day’s relaxation in the countryside can do so in safety.

Botelho drones on about "broad debate in civil society on how to better value the space of Pego do Inferno” but this is not necessary. Pego do Inferno is a pool and a waterfall: how difficult is it to replace the wooden infrastructure that was destroyed in the 2012 fire and reopen the site?

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11533-tavira-mayor-fails-to-restore-pego-do-inferno-after-five-years-of-waffle

Over in Silves, the Odelouca river has been restocked with young fish of two endangered species.

This is all part of a wider project and the environmental organisation Quercus must be congratulated for driving this process and caring about small fish in a large world.

The critically endangered and curiously named species, Boga-do-sudoeste and Escalo-do-Arade have had their numbers boosted by 600 fish, bred in captivity and now released into the river.

The hope is that fish numbers can get back to healthy levels and these species will not be wiped out.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11559-odelouca-river-restocked-with-threatened-fish-species

Only one banking story this week: Santander Totta, having announced the fateful ‘swaps’ conflict has been resolved in a London court, later admitted that the original and highly controversial deals are to continue, with continuing losses for the State-owned companies.

These totally inappropriate contracts were signed by many of Portugal’s transport companies and, when interest rates dropped to near zero, managements found themselves paying out massive amounts in interest, as defined in the contract terms.

The Ministry of Finance, then under the slippery rule of Maria Luís Albuquerque in the Passos Coelho government, instructed the companies to stop making payments, thus triggering legal action by Santander Totta.

The government lost its legal challenge that the 'swaps' deals were missold and António Vieira Monteiro, the head of Santander Totta, was asked last week “whether he was comfortable with charging such high interest to the State?”

Monteiro replied that this was not his role, "I do not have to be comfortable or not," thus placing him in the same bracket as many other reviled bankers operating in Portugal.

With the current animosity towards the banking sector, Monteiro’s “we won, you lost” attitude long will be remembered as a low point in Santander Totta's history.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11539-swap-contracts-remained-the-same-agreement-aimed-only-at-payments

A refreshing burst of honesty from the government last week as Ministerial Assistant in the PM's cabinet, Eduardo Cabrita, stated that Portugal "is not a preferred destination" for refugees.

A report showed that of the 1,255 refugees so far taken in by Portugal under the EU quota system, 474 already have left the country, this 40% disappearance rate being one of the highest in Europe.

The Left Bloc has demanded a report to describe and explain this phenomenon but we can save the government the trouble and expense: the reasons are: jobs, money and career progression - three goals that new arrivals feel can better be achieved in northern Europe.  

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11530-portugal-s-refugees-40-have-left-already

The shocking attack on a four-year-old girl in Matosinhos, by an un-muzzled Rottweiler that was off its lead, has raised many questions about the legality of owning such animals.

New legislation was introduced in 2013 to categorise those dog breeds considered 'dangerous, and potentially dangerous' and to issue rules to be followed by owners.

One of the law’s requirements was that owners attend a training course with their animals before being awarded a certificate of competence.

The problem here is that, even after four years, these courses are not available.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said that training course venues will be announced ‘before the end of June 2017’ but the slow process of this key part of the 2013 law shows that the government is able to devise sensible solutions to problems, but fails badly when attempting to make them work.

It should not take nearly 50 months to licence trainers to run courses for dogs and owners.

The conclusions must be that the delay has been deliberate or that the ministry does not have the project management skills to deliver the goods.

In the meantime, many owners do not have a clue how to control potentially vicious animals.

In the attack in Matosinhos, the owner deliberately put others at risk by allowing his dog off the lead without a mizzle. No amount of training can counter the actions of an idiot.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11556-dangerous-dog-training-scheme-required-by-2013-law-to-start-by-the-end-of-june-2017

The Fortaleza de Peniche, 60 kilometres to the north of Lisbon, was long-used as a prison, most recently between 1934 and 1974 for many who opposed the Salazar regime. During this Estado Novo period, countless political opponents spent grim years within its austere walls.

The government decided to add the building to its Revive list of public buildings available to the private sector for renovation and conversion to restaurants or hotels.

The inclusion of the Fortaleza de Peniche in the Revive programme did not go down well with Communist Party MPs who feared the building could be turned into to a hotel and restaurant: for such a politically and historically important site, this was seen as sacrilege.

Sensibly, the government now has decided to transform this fort into the ‘national museum of resistance to the Salazar regime,’ a more fitting purpose and one that will remind visitors that the current, often maligned democratic system in Portugal may be young, but ought be appreciated as pre-1974 Portugal was not a free and easy place in which to live.  

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11550-peniche-fort-to-become-a-national-museum-of-resistance-to-the-salazar-dictatorship

Another important building, that for years has lain unused and deteriorating, is the rather fine Hotel Turismo in Guarda. Purchased by the national tourist board for €3.5 million in 2010, the hotel was abandoned two years later and failed to reach a €1.7 reserve at auction in 2015.

The latest plan is to include the hotel in the Revive programme and offer it to private enterprise.

The continuing problem is the insistence that the hotel also is used as a training centre for tourism students. This requirement could deter many potential takers but as soon as the site is generating income rather than costs, the better for the Treasury.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11570-iconic-1930s-hotel-joins-revive-list-of-abandoned-state-assets

Next Wednesday, May 3rd, marks the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Len Port takes a look at the current build-up of media nonsense over the case and concludes:

‘Maddie’ helps circulation figures and makes money. Money, along with misinformation, has always played far too big a part in this case which, let’s remember, is about the tragic loss of a child.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11540-madeleine-mccann-and-the-media-by-len-port

 

News you may have missed in the week:

 
Portugal's unemployment below 10% for the first time since 2009

Portugal's unemployment below 10% for the first time since 2009

According to the Labour Minister, Vieira da Silva, the end of March unemployment statistics represent "a moment...

 

 
Hashish bales just drifting along the Algarve coastline

Hashish bales just drifting along the Algarve coastline

The Algarve coast again has been blessed with the arrival of free bales of hashish, securely packaged...

 

 
Lagos hosts 9th 'Festival of the Discoveries'

Lagos hosts 9th 'Festival of the Discoveries'

Lagos council is hosting its 9th Festival of the Discoveries, starting today and continuing until May...

 

 
Ria Formosa Week sponsors choose threatened seahorse as their 2017 mascot

Ria Formosa Week sponsors choose threatened seahorse as their 2017 mascot

Ria Formosa Week, in fact four days between May 2nd to 6th, aims to highlight local environmental...

 
Brazilian market regulator fines ex-PT boss, Zeinal Bava, for 'loose talk'

Brazilian market regulator fines ex-PT boss, Zeinal Bava, for 'loose talk'

The Securities Commission of Brazil has fined the former president of Oi over statements he made to...

 
 
Petition to save life of Rottweiler in Matosinhos attack

Petition to save life of Rottweiler in Matosinhos attack

An online petition to save the life of a Rottweiler which attacked and badly injured a four-year-old...

 

 
Public sector employees get extra day off for Pope's visit in May

Public sector employees get extra day off for Pope's visit in May

Portugal's government has decided to give public sector employees the day off on May 12th to mark...

 

 

José Sócrates - Operation Marquês - formal charges won't be long now

José Sócrates - Operation Marquês - formal charges won't be long now

The Attorney General's Office has extended the deadline for the conclusion of Operation Marquês by which charges...

 

Features

I don't want to think about my funeral - why do I need to?

I don't want to think about my funeral - why do I need to?

Time and time again we hear "I don't want to think about...

 
Support Independent Filmmaking...spend 2 minutes and no money!

Support Independent Filmmaking...spend 2 minutes and no money!

Longship Films combines indie filmmaking and lean startup thinking, we call it...

 
10 Worst Cases of Corporate Greed in U.S. History

10 Worst Cases of Corporate Greed in U.S. History

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. Money...

 
Rotary Foundation Centennial Celebration Concert

Rotary Foundation Centennial Celebration Concert

A Centennial Celebration Concert was organised by the Rotary Club of Estoi...

 
Why April 25th is a holiday - the Carnation Revolution and the events of 1974

Why April 25th is a holiday - the Carnation Revolution and the events of 1974

Freedom Day, Revolution Day or simply, Carnation Day, the 25th of April...

 
Volunteer Marshals wanted for Portugal Golf Open - May 11th to 14th

Volunteer Marshals wanted for Portugal Golf Open - May 11th to 14th

The Portugal Open Golf has returned to the Algarve with the...

 
Weekly Currency Forecast

Weekly Currency Forecast

Event risk will move the exchange rate...There are quite a few pieces...

 

 

Algarve movie fundraising campaign close to target with just days to go

Algarve movie fundraising campaign close to target with just days to go

They’re at it again and with three days to go, the push...

 

 

Property

Five-star boutique hotel opens at multi-award-winning golf course

Five-star boutique hotel opens at multi-award-winning golf course

The much anticipated five-star boutique hotel at the Algarve's multi-award-winning Onyria Palmares Beach Golf Resort has opened. The...

 

 
Portugal Property Conference, London - 9th May

Portugal Property Conference, London - 9th May

SAVE THE DATE! The Portuguese Chamber’s 2017 Portugal Property Conference will take place on Tuesday 9th May in the Alfred...

 

 

Peaceful Patroves or Marina Living: the choice is yours at Cerro Novo

Peaceful Patroves or Marina Living: the choice is yours at Cerro Novo

NEW on the Market! If you thought you'd never find a cozy villa with lovely communal facilities and a great...

 

 

 

What's Happening

Algarve History Association News and Events - May 2017

Algarve History Association News and Events - May 2017

All the news and information regarding May Events from Algarve History Association. CLICK HERE to see details.

 

This week's Activity Algarve Bike Rides

This week's Activity Algarve Bike Rides

 

Charity News

Charity Fundraiser Makes A More Personal Donation

Charity Fundraiser Makes A More Personal Donation

West Coast resident Cath Baker, who has raised thousands of Euros for charity has made another—more personal—donation to Portugal’s lifeboat service.Cath, from Vale da Telha outside Aljezur, donated a scale...

 

Business

Business Breakfast - May 3rd

Business Breakfast - May 3rd

The British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the Dutch-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and the French-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry is pleased to announce the next Business Breakfast in...

 

Until next week

Ed

 

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