Representatives of the Algarve’s embattled Ria Formosa islanders are to be heard at a meeting of the Commission for the Environment* on the 29 September.
According to a SOS Ria Formosa spokesman, this invitation to Lisbon is a result of "the petition delivered by us on 20 January 2016, which aims to preserve the Ria Formosa and demands the immediate suspension of demolitions."
Representatives of the islanders, who face the destruction of the homes under a plan being executed by Polis Ria Formosa, will be asked to state their case and then will answer questions from MPs represeting all parties.
The government stated last week that €1.5 million would be made available to improve conditions in the village of Culatra but not those at Hangares and Farol where residents fear further destruction is soon to take place after a summer's pause in proceedings.
The islanders are wary of the Culatra grant and its aparent intent to ‘divide and conquer’ and want all the island settlements to be treated equally as all have much the same history and face the same threats.
"We will remind the Government that all the island villages are historical. All the families affected by the demolition threat are descendants of those who built the essential foundations of the island including the jetty, the barrier and the lighthouse, and gave support to the military store (hangares) that operated during the WWII. People with leprosy were sent to this place so not to risk infecting others: it seems that the government has forgotten that it was the Portuguese State that made this a place for us to live."
The SOS Ria Formosa petition to save the islanders’ homes received over 4,000 signatures so their case will have to be heard in parliament if constitutional rules are followed. This will be after the Environment Commission meeting with its findings and recommendations being heard by all MPs.
The criteria used for the planned destruction of 800 properties has varied over time as Polis Ria Formosa, run by the Algarve’s ‘demolition man’ Sebastião Teixeira, searhces for an acceptable reason to remove people from their homes and to demolish their properties, leaving areas of sand which yield no council rates, water charges or electricity payments.
The deliberate twisting of Polis’s remit by its management and the undue weight that has given to these island clearances when so much else could have been achieved to develop and improve the Ria Formosa area, has led many to suspect that island zones are to be leased to tourism businesses for the construction of ‘high class’ accommodation, though this has yet to be proved.
Polis as a company will be wound up at the end of this year. This has been the case in the last two years, with the company being awarded annual extensions to finish the job of bulldozing properties.
António Costa, before he became prime minister, was sympathetic to the islanders’ plight but now that he leads the country, the best he has managed was to delay any further destructive activity until ‘after the summer’ - which now it is.
A knock-out political decision needs to be taken to end this situation as Portuguese citizens do not deserve to live in fear of oppression by any of the State’s instruments - Polis Ria Formosa is controlled by the Ministry of the Environment.
As the battle recommences, the Minister for the Environment is due to make a statement 'next week' which, depending on the timing may affect the discussion at the cross-party Commission for the Environment.
The islanders have been in place for generations even since the first thatched hovels were erected on Culatra, Armona and Farol in the 1800s when nobody else wanted to live among the poorest of the poor.
Now that the islands are recognised for their tourism apeal and potential development, the State has moved in to kick out the rather inconvenient locals who it did not expect to mount such a desperate and spirited campaign.
(* Comissão de Ambiente, Ordenamento do Território, Descentralização, Poder Local e Habitação)