António Pina, the mayor of Olhão, who has done more than any other public figure to fight the Ria Formosa island demolitions, is to join the board of Polis Litoral Ria Formosa in a dramatic move that has detractors crying ‘foul.’
With two board seats now being allocated to councils, these seats normally are allocated to govenrment 'yes men', the board of Polis hopefully will end up 'pro-island and anti-demolition.'
There is always a seat on the board for one of the five mayors covered by the Polis remit and this year it is Pina’s turn but with a board meeting set for December 15th, just two weeks before the company is due to be wound up, many ask ‘what is the point?
It now seems likely that Polis will continue for at least another year as it has much work left to accomplish and, hopefully, enough money left in its bank account to pay for it.
The ten year life of the company proved insufficient for the previous president, the reviled ‘demolition man’ Sebastião Teixeira, to complete a fairly simple ‘list of things to do’ with the highly controversial demolitions left until the last moment and then fiercely opposed by the islanders who were due to lose 500 properties.
Teixeira so annoyed his boss, Minister for the Environment, João Matos Fernandes, that he was asked to resign but held onto the presidency of the Algarve Environment Agency which has a seat on the Polis board – until the 15th, as the rule change has seen the two Polis board seats reserved for the Algarve Environment Agency and the Institute for Nature and Forestry and Conservation, scrapped in favour of council appointees.
The General Assembly of Polis is due to approve the two names put forward by the Ministry of the Environment - José Pacheco and Rogério Gomes - who will be joined by António Pina to the cheery delight of islanders.
The Environment Minister has dismissed the idea that Polis now is “in the hands of municipalities” and said it’s Pina’s turn to sit on the board.
Detractors say Pina should be banned from the Polis board as it was he that tied Polis up in knots by lodging a court injunction to stop the demolitions on Culatra. Pine citied the probable destruction of the habitat a rare island chameleon as the reason for the diggers to stay away.
One anonymous source commented, "Antonio Pina's links to litigation with Polis should make it impossible for him to hold such a position."
The Ministry of the Environment holds 51% of the shares in Polis but soon may not control the board with the two government agency board seats going.
The Environment Minister has sucked the poison out of the demolitions situation by agreeing that each islander’s situation will be looked at on a case-by-case basis and that nobody working on the islands or retired from a life of fishing will lose their home.
The last wave of demolition notices sent out by Teixeira informed property owners that they had to leave their homes or be charged for the cost of knocking them down.
The minister intervened at the last moment and reduced the number by 19 buildings as they were "owned by fishermen and nursery workers or those retired from these professions."
Sensibly, the minister has not overseen the authorisation of any further demolitions and, with his reputation riding high, may simply do nothing to disturb Ria Formosa island life.
António Pina, shocked by a vociferous and well planned campaign against the council masterplan for the modernisation of the historic centre of Olhão, can regain some political ground if he continues to voice his opposition to further island demolitions from his seat in the Polis boardroom.