Five Algarve business associations have condemned the government's decision to authorise the Galp-ENI test well drilling without a proper environmental study.
The search for oil off the coast of Aljezur, "opens the door for future exploration permits," states the groups of local businessmen who accuse the government of having acted "in a non-transparent way."
The misnamed Portuguese Environmental Agency has been dancing to the tune of the government and the government is criticised for not considering any new concession sales until after the 2019 general elections, when it can turn the switch back on.
The associations say as one, that they do not want to "jeopardise a highly developed and fully functioning economic activity of great importance to the region and to the country", with tourism now being Portugal’s main export (€15 billion in 2017), generating “around 50% of this value in the Algarve.”
"An annual decline of 15% or 20% in international tourism revenues in the region, caused by a deterioration of the brand image of the Algarve, would represent a decrease in revenues in the order of €1 to €1.5 billion, which, due to uncertainties and the theoretical numbers being advanced by the promoters of oil exploration, is much more than the possible benefits.”
The associations also support the rejection of the Government's decision by the Algarve mayors’ group, AMAL, which affirmed that the regions’ councils, "in the past, now and in the future are against oil exploration off the Algarve coast and that the concession contract must be terminated, and that they will continue, through the courts, to fight against this process."
The latest statement is signed by the Association of Trade and Services of the Algarve (ACRAL), Association of Hotels and Tourist Enterprises of the Algarve (AHETA), Association of Hoteliers and Similar Employees of the Algarve (AIHSA), Confederation of Businessmen of the Algarve (CEAL) and Business Association of the Algarve Region (NERA).
Last week, on the last day of the deadline, the Portuguese Environment Agency exempted Galp-ENI from having to submit an environmental impact study.
The APA president, Nuno Lacasta, justified his decision by stating that "no significant negative impacts" were identified in the test well drilling process and that he had used the opinions of nine of Portugal’s many economic and environmental agencies to support his decision.