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Key debate in parliament on Ria Formosa islanders' future

culatraIn advance of the parliamentary debate scheduled for Friday 12th February on the fate of the Ria Formosa islanders, the Commission for the Environment, Planning, Decentralisation, Local Power and Housing met in committee to discuss the matter.

Algarve Socialists are proposing a 'change in philosophy' for Polis Litoral Ria Formosa, requiring it to stop demolishing houses and start helping develop the artesan indutries which they are meant to be helping.

Polis is the government controlled company that has been demolishing homes in a desperate rush while paying no heed to islanders’ protests and, nor in some cases, the legality of its contractor’s actions.

The Socialist Party view is that the historic villages on the Ria Formosa islands should be preserved and their inhabitants encouraged, while certain demolitions should go ahead where it is obvious that 'risk is evident.'

The Communist Party and the Left Bloc national executives want to see an end to the demolitions all together.

The draft resolutions have been prepared by members of the three parties that make up the left wing alliance and there will be what may turn out to be the definitive vote on Friday.

The islanders’ future was thrown into further uncertainly when the matter last was voted on in parliament under the Passos Coelho coalition.

MPs voted along party lines rather than using their common sense and the demolitions carried on at a brisk pace, halted only by injunctions and environmental legalities raised by the ‘discovery’ of a rare island chameleon.

The Algarve’s Socialist MPs all are signatories to the proposal that wants Polis to return to its original philosophy and ditch its demolition plan, legalise the urban areas on Culatra and treat people equally in the "historical urban centres" of the Ria Formosa islands.

The overall Ria Formosa development and land use plan also needs looking at and an element of equality brought in to treat the residents of Culatra, Farol, Faro Island and Hangars, as equal to Armona which so far has avoided the wrath of Polis.

The Socialist Party in Lisbon, not in the Algarve, has taken a harder line and wants demolitions to continue unless the property is a first home. It does want to preserve the villages but is not so keen on any outlying buildings which it wants picked off and the land returned to level sand.

On January 19th the Faro mayor met Celia Ramos, Secretary of State for Regional Planning and Nature Conservation who confirmed the demolitions will go ahead.

This view is no different from the last government, the only difference now is the balance of power with the Socialist Party reliant on the good will of the left wing to keep control.

Imagining that the islanders will be happy with promises of social housing on the mainland is a mistake; this is what enraged islanders previously and this is what the debate on Friday is all about.

The islanders want to stay put and the Portuguese government legislated ages ago that they be removed due to environmental concerns, or safety, or tourism depending on which conspiracy blog you read.

The Commies want no part in further demolitions and says they must stop right now. A clear stance, at least.

The islanders say that the money spend needlessly on knocking down their modest homes would have been better spent on doing up the villages and improving their living conditions.

The Left Bloc in the Algarve through MP João Vasconcelos announced that it wants to recognise the economic and social value of the properties in the Ria Formosa islands and that the demolitions stop right now. 

Friday’s vote will be a key step in the islanders’ fight for justice and hereditary rights of occupation which the State has said do not exist.

Islander representatives will be in the public gallery, hopefully this time they will not have to be escorted from the premises by the police.

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