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Mayor calls for Algarve referendum on oil and gas exploration

oilonshorerigThe Algarve mayors group is pressing the Government to rescind the onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction contracts signed with Portfuel.

AMAL formally has requested a meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy to "reinforce the requirement that the contracts are suspended." Today’s statement follows up the guarantee given last Friday by the Secretary of State, Jorge Seguro Sanches, that the government is not being held back for any reason in cancelling these concession agreements.

AMAL said in a press release today that "this matter can be resolved by mutual agreement and in a faster, less costly and beneficial way for all concerned." "The government, as mentioned in the statement released last week, has the ability unilaterally to terminate the contracts. That is why we hope this will happen," AMAL President Jorge Botelho explained to Sul Informação.

Jorge Seguro Sanches’ statement was in response to the Público newspaper highlighting last Friday that the government had let a key legal deadline slip by before which it could easily have cancelled the contracts.

AMAL already has lodged two legal actions to stop Portfuel and the Galp-ENI consortium from drilling on and offshore in the Algarve but there has been no court decision yet.

The mayors group "considers that the exploitation of oil and natural gas will have negative results on the economic activity of the region, in particular in the tourism sector, besides not being in line with the sustainable development” of the region.

Vítor Aleixo, the mayor of Loulé, has addressed an audience at in the CCDR-Algarve building in Faro during a ‘participatory budget’ meeting and called for a regional vote on oil and gas exploration.

"Here, before this audience, I raise the challenge: why do not we directly consult the citizens and residents of the Algarve about the exploration and extraction of oil?"

This call for a regional vote echoes a stated initiative from anti-oil association ASMAA which, having submitted a 42,000 signature petition to parliament only to see it ignored, has been putting the wheels in motion to organise a regional vote in order to show the government once and for all that the region's population does not want to take the risk of the Algarve becoming a centre for a new oil industry - especially as there's no money in it for the region.

If the mayors get behind this regional referendum idea, then it will happen sooner and may be more likely to carry weight in parliament where MPs still are voting ‘pro-oil’ despite the surge of opposition that started in the Algarve.

By making his statements at th formal ‘participatory budget’ session in Faro, Aleixo was sure of government members being present who could not help but agree that ‘the people should have a voice’ – the very theme of the budget meeting.