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Monchique Mayor heads post-fire 'regeneration working group'

FirefighterThe Mayor of Monchique, Rui André, has been put in charge of a working group to regenerate the local economy and rid the Serra da Monchique's slopes of eucalyptus.

Portugal’s Prime Minister, popping down to the fire-ravaged municipality last Friday, announced the appointment of André in an effort to find some positives after his off-beat comments last week were slammed by national and regional media.(HERE)

PM António Costa said the new working group is charged with designing an economic regeneration plan for the Monchique area and rural parts of its neighbouring municipalities, with André drawing on input from the ICNF forestry institute and the regional agricultural directorate.

In the first clue yet that the message has sunk in at government level, Costa said that the plan should ensure the Monchique countryside is not dependent on eucalyptus, or ‘fast growing species’ as he rather delicately put it.

On a roll, António Costa then mentioned tourism, medronho, black pigs and beekeeping as he waded into areas safer than firefighting coordination, helicopters without foam retardants and the fact that a municipal capital came close to being evacuated and the area's top hotel, was.

The prime minister did not hazard a guess at the money needed for the total economic regeneration of Monchique – wisely, as figured bandied about by politicians at times like this never seem to appear.

Rui André, having calmed down after his firey, "Lisbon has abandoned us," speech, (HERE) has done a beautifully executed 180 degree pirouette, his thinking these days being that, "this fire has to be seen as a window of opportunity," to change the way the Serra is managed and to, "correct past mistakes."

Now fully on-side, to the PM’s relief, Rui André described the working group very much as a "consortium," and that the government wants him, yes him, to "implement an innovative programme that will become a pilot project for other regions of the country.”

António Costa said that 17 houses were destroyed and five more currently are uninhabitable adding that, as for the animals, the Centre for Food Distribution in Patacão, near Faro airport, will provide, "hay and rations" for pigs and sheep. For the bees, sugar will be made available for them to consume and that people can apply for Measure 662, "which finances the restoration of productive potential" including animals, crops and agricultural tools and machinery.

The newly elected Algarve tourism boss, João Fernandes, said his staff already have been contacting local tourist businesses to see what the damage is and how State funds can help.

On a practical level, Fernandes said that his office, Almargem and João Ministro from ProActiveTur will be organising the replacement of the signage along the Via Algarviana and other routes damaged by the great Monchique Fire of 2018.

The President of the Republic went to Alferce, Monchique on Saturday to listen to a series of complaints from locals affected by the fires.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa insisted that the salvation of human life was the primary task given to those in charge of the Monchique fire’s management as he dealt with complaints about people that had been handcuffed by the GNR and led away like common criminals.

One Monchique councillor, José Chaparro, told the head of State that the people has been removed roughly from their homes by the GNR and pointed out that some "military and civilian fire clearance machines" had been inactive for three days, awaiting orders.

As for the GNR, "Overall they were fine, but there should have been a bit more common sense in acting with the people," said Chaparro.

"The time available to take lessons from last year's fires and to set up preventive mechanisms" has been "very limited," said the President, faced with the reality, expressed by one local, who replied to a question as to whether the firefighting has been a success, "My opinion is, no, it burned, we lost the county, I think it was a defeat for everyone."

The President struggled to get a word in for nearly ten minutes as 79-year-old José Marcos dos Santos gave Marcello a piece of his mind, stating the fire service should be in charge as they know the land and know what they are doing, not the Civil Protection Association and not the firefighting helicopters and aircraft, hired in at vast expense.

Dos Santos said that the government’s determination to avoid bad press should someone die had led to the widespread destruction of farms and property.

For once the President of the Republic looked variously stunned and awkward, as dos Santos, now 'social media hero of the week,' let rip. For some classic TV, click HERE

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+1 #7 Monchique Resident 2018-08-19 06:15
But WILL Rui Andre ever be brave enough to distance himself from the eucalyptus barons, after already doing ‘a 180 degree pirouette’?
+2 #6 Lancer 2018-08-13 10:57
It will be interesting to see the results, if any, of all these political machinations because in political circles and not just in Portugal, this type of inaction group/committee/tribunal is the standard way of giving the disgruntled people a sop but delaying any constructive, positive action because it avoids any financial cost to the government, they can claim they are awaiting the outcome of any deliberations before committing meaningful funds to any project and can therefore spend their time hoping that the people's anger will subside and they will become compliant voters again.

Working Group = Talking Group = Delayed Action Group = No Action Group.
+4 #5 D.Stackpole 2018-08-13 09:10
It was so sad to read of the pilferage of hundreds of thousands of euros intended for genuine 1st homers needing homes rebuilt up in Pedrogao Grande after last years fire. Diverted towards the scammers that had previously uninhabited ruins rebuilt then altered their Fiscal address. All with the full knowledge of the local Financas, PG Municipal, the relevant Frequesia, and through the builders merchants supplying the builds - the local GNR. Yet again no-one will be punished up in PG, just the little people will lose out, but we must hope this Monchique Mayor is cut from a better cloth.
+2 #4 Peter Booker 2018-08-13 08:04
After the fire in Tavira in 2012, I made the same point that Sr Marcos dos Santos was making yesterday. The fire service is outranked by Civil Protection, and their local knowledge of geography and weather conditions is rarely used to good effect.

But the Civil Protection team on the other hand produces attractive management charts on their power point presentations.

It all goes to prove that old management adage: bullshit beats brains every time.
+4 #3 Jack Reacher 2018-08-12 22:11
Seems to me Rui Andre has been dealt some kind of political sweetner. Chance wasted to force Lisbon into doing something long term and meaningful. And all we get is a working group. I can get one of those organised at the local social club. Shameful.
+5 #2 Branson 2018-08-12 20:04
I would imagine that these incompetent apologies for politicians who have shown over the past few years that they can't even organise a credible firefighting response will now be looking to safeguard their future by organising a transfer to E.U. headquarters in Brussels because a few more corrupt, inept, incompetent cretins in that place won't even be noticed. :-*
+2 #1 Cicero 2018-08-12 19:26
Instead of these self serving, cretinous, politicians like Costa and Sousa coming around for photo opportunities with the victims of their lethargic incompetence, just like they did last year after the fires in the north, why don't they save the expense of their trips and give the money to the underfunded firefighters who are finding it necessary to make appeals for drinking water, burns ointment and cotton socks.
The vast majority of politicians are selfish incompetants but I'm sorry to say Portugal exceeds the normal quota by some way.

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