SOS Ria Formosa Movement spokesmen went to the president’s palace in Belém today, Monday 5th of February, for a 3pm meeting.
Two representatives representing Ria Formosa island locals, José Lezinho and Vanessa Morgado, were received by the advisor responsible for the environment, Nuno Sampaio.
This hearing, which was arranged last year when the President, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited the Algarve, comes precisely at a time when the demolition debate again has flared up with notices issued by Polis Litoral Ria Formosa seeming to be in direct contradiction of the assurances issued last year by the Minister for the Environment.
The demolition or 22 properties is going ahead despite a three year moratorium given by the minister who was keen to deflate the expanding argument that pitted islanders against the State.
The villages of Farol and Culatra have been recognised by parliament as 'viable settlements' after MPs voted on the question at the end of 2016.
"The SOS Ria Formosa Movement welcomes the granting of this hearing,” read a statement, adding that the representatives “will alert the President to the concerns and uncertainties of the populations and the problems of the Ria Formosa, in the short, medium and long-term scenarios.”
SOS Ria Formosa later stated that, "The enormous discomfort and revolt that this whole process is causing to the island populations was explained, as well as the numerous contradictions relating to the various statutes in force covering the Ria Formosa area. In similar situations the treatment has been very different. While there is openness and recognition for some of the Ria Formosa settlements, in Farol and Hangares it has been decided to demolish instead of renovate."
José Lezinho and Vanessa Morgado said in Lisbon, that "more than a year after the approval by majority of MPs to recognise the villages of Farol and Hangares, nothing seems to have been done to implement this recognition."
The meeting also addressed issues such as the outdated Sotavento Coastal Planning Plan and those buildings that are "licensed and permitted, both in the Ria Formosa and elsewhere in the Algarve", that are less than 40 metres from the water line – the reason being given for the latest raft of 22 island demolitions.
The campaigners asked Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa "to intercede with the decision-makers so that all these problems can be solved without demolitions, or at least that the inhabitants, in more complicated cases, can have their dwellings in one of the innumerable spaces within the villages - a solution we long have advocated for situations where there is actually some risk.”