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Portugal's energy authority 'surprised' at Algarve's anti-oil stance

oilonshorerigPortugal’s public body that issues oil and gas exploration licenses has responded to the groundswell of opinion from the Algarve mayors and local pressure groups by denying it acted with a lack of transparency when granting exploration concessions across the Algarve.

The Entidade Nacional para o Mercado dos Combustíveis (ENMC) has taken the rare step of issuing a statement to state how 'transparent' it has been and that everyone has been kept involved while it granted exploration rights to on- and offshore blocs in the Algarve.

AMAL, the Algarve mayors’ group, issued a long overdue position statement this week saying it would use ‘all legal methods’ to halt the exploration for oil and gas in the Algarve and that the process had been notable for the lack of consultation involved.

The ENMC says it received the mayors’ statement "with surprise" and that it had put all the contracts and associated information on its website the day after the signing of these contracts," and that in its role as supervisor, “it was primarily responsible for defending the national and public interest, and had sought from the outset to ensure all conditions of transparency and corporate information were met."

The presidents of the Algarve’s councils unanimously approved a statement which said that "the contract was signed between the Portuguese State and a company for the granting of exploration rights, research, development and production of oil in the areas designated as Aljezur and Tavira. This is a situation that exceeds at all permissible limits with regard to the right of access to information, clarification, public discussion and, above all, the respect the councils deserve.”

In today's statement, ENMC said that "on the 28th of October, the ENMC sent an invitation to the President of AMAL to take part in a meeting along with all the Algarve's mayors to develop channels of information and give an insight into what is really at stake in this concession."

AMAL points out that the invitation arrived only after the concession agreement had been signed and it questions how this can be considered 'transparent' when the deal that divided the Algarve into two huge oil exploration blocs had been signed with Portfuel.

AMAL agrees that the oil exploration deals indeed were posted on the ENMC’s website but that nobody knew they were there as the mayors did not spend each and every day checking website to see if oil exploration contracts has been signed under their noses.

The president of AMAL, Jorge Botelho, said "it’s a bit much for ENMC now to come along talking about transparency.”

There is a meeting scheduled for the 18th of December at the AMAL headquarters in Faro where the Algarve’s mayors hope to hear all the explanations that they should have been given before the contracts were signed.
The ENMC said that "everything will continue to be done in the public interest, in strict compliance with the law, with full and complete information to all interested parties, and the certainty that nothing is done without these steps having been taken."

By using "all legal forms" at its disposal to halt oil exploration, AMAL now has taken a firm stand against a public body that has singularly failed to involve mayors and has had to resort to publishing its own position statement that again fails to recognise the sensitivities involved when dealing with those in a region that it wants to turn into an oil production zone.

By claiming it has been transparent by publishing signed oil exploration contracts, ENMC has found itself in a position that will be hard to rectify in a calm and considered manner. 

Pressure groups such as ASMAA and Palp have long sought the political assistance of the Algarve's majors, the events of the last week are a vindication of their work to rpeserve the Algarve as a tourist region that does not need the threats posed by oil companies and their poor environmental records.

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