Poppy, palm oil and PIN - news from the Algarve

Dear reader

A week of news and views from the Algarve...

There is some useful advice from ABTA and The City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau about how to avoid being conned when booking holidays and accommodation online.

Fake websites, false advertising, bogus phone calls and email scams are increasingly used by crooks to part holidaymakers with their money even before they have set off for sunny climes. The Get Safe Online website is a useful source of advice when trying to avoid the many pitfalls of e-commerce


One website that will be missed is Diário Digital which switched off last week after 17 years of financial struggle. This was the first Portuguese web-based news service but how it survived through the recession from 2008, is a wonder.

Without the comfort blanket of a media group to absorb the inevitable losses, I wonder how it paid its undoubtedly competent journalists for so long. Most of them had moved on and those that stayed until the end, hopefully will find employment at other of the capital’s more buoyant news providers.


Thursday January 19th, for those in the Praia da Luz area, is the date for the opening of Poppy the Herbalist’s new clinic.

With the promise of a “calming sea view and ample space for growing herbs” the more important aspect of this event is the supply of champagne and “herbal treats,” – intriguing...


The palm oil pollution along the shores of the Ria Formosa islands triggered a ‘Plan Mar Limpo - Grade 2’ alert from the authorities to deal with this unsightly problem.

The expectation of teams of expert operatives with machinery and pollution control equipment was quashed as the call for volunteers went out. Last Saturday, around 100 officials, islanders and landlubbers donned protective clothing and were issued with black bin bags in which to collect the mess.

The ‘Preserving the Marine Environment’ conference in Portimão last October aimed to assure the public that the State’s various agencies were ready to cope with sea-borne pollution affecting the Algarve but the Ria Formosa islands clear-up operation raises questions as to whether this is the case or whether the conference was a PR exercise.

Meanwhile, the smaller congealed lumps of palm oil remain in the sand while the search continues for the tanker skipper who thought it a sensible plan to flush out his tanks off the Algarve coastline.

There were no alerts to keep dogs from the island beaches and the question remains as to whether the State’s resources are set up to cope with a crude oil spill affecting the Algarve’s coves and beaches.


On the topic of oil, while the government continues to tread the delicate line between appeasing the anti-oil movement and its big business buddies, Odemira’s socialist councillors issued a statement condemning the current exploration licenses.

In the replies given by the Government to the Left Bloc and the Greens on January 9th, it was made clear that all contracts with the Repsol-Partex consortium in the Algarve remain in force.

Contrary to information in the public domain since December 2016, none of the four contracts in the consortium's possession have been rescinded.

The Odemira socialists argue that oil exploration activity is "highly detrimental to the local and regional interest, including environmental, economic and social risks in a county, which is based particularly on its nature tourism, fisheries and agriculture."

The anti-oil exploration association, ASMAA, says it "welcomes the anti-oil exploration position that Odemira council finally has taken, and looks forward to the council’s support in the anti-oil fight that is scheduled to increase this year."

This may be just one small council but it now is at the forefront of the anti-oil campaign joined by the associations and groups fighting the Repsol-ENI consortium.


There was some cheering news from the Attorney General’s Office about the onshore exploration licenses issued to Algarve-based Portfuel whose owner, Sousa Cintra, intended to go to court to have his licenses confirmed as valid or to be compensated for the money he has so far spent on geological surveys.

Portfuel was awarded the two contracts in highly suspicious circumstances. The company could never have qualified as a concession holder as it lacked a track record, a key requirement. Portfuel’s management then failed to provide the obligatory insurance cover for the company’s intended operations.

Sousa Cintra’s throw-away comment that he was given the nod from higher up the food chain, leads us to conclude that the same old strands of patronage were employed to get him the deal, but who was involved: the hapless Paulo Carmona from the Fuels Authority, the Environment Minister Jorge Moreira da Silva, or someone higher up in government?

If Sousa Cintra continues to be trashed in the press and receives zero compensation from the courts for his doomed venture, maybe he will get annoyed enough to spill the beans.


Vale do Freixo is another tourist development planned for the hills behind Loulé. Benefitting from Project of National Importance status, the developers want to turn 381 hectares of the region’s Natura 2000 countryside into a resort with two hotels, a golf course, eight villages and ‘complementary infrastructure’.

This resort is 10 kilometres from Quinta da Ombria, a strikingly similar resort which now has started to be constructed.

The 350 jobs promised at Vale do Freixo seems a suspiciously round figure, perhaps more of a guesstimate, after all the Autodrome promised 1,650 jobs and currently employs around 40 staff.

Algarve Left Bloc MP João Vasconcelos called for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Planning and Nature Conservation in January a year ago, complaining that the project has PIN classification, but that it should not have as it “violates national and Community legislation.”

Almargem, the local council and Brussels all have made comments as to the siting of this resort in a Natura 2000 zone on top of the Querença aquifer, as is the neighbouring Quinta da Ombria, potentially polluting a fresh water system that supplies much of the region.

Will Arab money prevail and the resort receive its final planning permission, or will this area remain protected by its Natura 2000 classification?


Portugal’s government feel snubbed by Spain’s plans for its aging nuclear power station at Almaraz on the Tejo, 100 kilometres from the border.

Spain wants to prolong the life of this facility and to build a nuclear waste dump, increasing the probability of something going wrong that could affect the Tejo as it flows through Portugal’s green and pleasant land.

The reality of the Tejo is that it already is heavily polluted from Portuguese industries along its banks so the environmental claims are weak for as long as the river remains in its current state.

Again, Portugal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, has been trying to appease rather than taking a stand and has waited too long before issuing his latest threat of ‘complaining to Brussels.’ A damning report by the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council was not enough to prod Santos Silva into action, his colleagues stating last April that the minster ‘was not worried’ about the matter.


Whatever your views on nuclear power, this plant is ancient and increasingly dangerous. Built in 1981, it was due to be closed 30 years later but the Spanish government wants to extend its life until 2030. Zero’s statement outlines the argument from this side of the border:


US vulture find Lone Star is ahead in the Novo Banco sale process, or is it? The Bank of Portugal’s vague statement last week looked like it preferred Lone Star but in fact showed the race is open to all the original contenders. If one of them drops the condition that the State, i.e. the taxpayer, underwrites future losses from outstanding legal cases, the bank is theirs.

After the Bank of Portugal’s governor sunk €4.9 billion into this ill-fated venture in 2014, the thought of a further €2.5 billion potentially needed to compensate the likes of Goldman Sachs is too much for many to bear: the calls for Novo Banco to remain in State control have increased in volume since the beginning of the year.

The Lone Star bid for Novo Banco, the BES 'good bank', is €1.5 billion. The Resolution Fund, supported with money from Portugal’s banks, therefore is faced with a loss of €3.1 billion. If guarantees form part of the deal, you can add a minimum of €2.5 billion with some estimating a provision of €10 billion would be safest.

This process is a mess, created overseen by the Bank of Portugal’s governor, Carlos Costa who has until this August to define Novo Banco’s future, either sold off at an eye-watering loss, nationalised or broken up.


The Algarve’s EN125 roadworks restarted at the end of the week. When they finally are finished, Jack Soifer believes they won’t do much good as they design is an outdated one, the motorway remains underused despite being mostly funded by the EU to help economic development across the Algarve region, and the eastern EN125 continues to crumble away under the weight of traffic.

António Costa promised to remove tolls on the Via do Infante, but this was shortly before he was voted in to power. He has reneged on the deal and refuses to state the cost of cancelling the motorway concession contract, as did his predecessor.

Only when the public knows what this cost would be, can any sensible discussion be held. Until this time, the taxpayer sends off a cheque every year to compensate the concession holder for the number of vehicles that didn’t use the road.


Loulé council is doing something positive with its much vaunted cash hoard by renovating the Palácio Gama Lobos in Rua Nossa Senhora de Fátima. This notable Pombaline building is one of the city’s finest buildings and repair and refurbishment before any serious degradation takes place is ‘a stitch in time.’

The building then will provide a home for the ‘Loulé Criativo’ project which “supports the training and activity of artisans and other people working in the creative sector, helping to revitalise the traditional arts and crafts and dynamise new approaches to the areas intangible heritage.”


January 28th, for those with Scottish blood coursing through their veins, or simply with a yearning for all things Scottish, is the Burn's Supper at the Ponte Romana restaurant in Silves. Bubbly served on arrival to the strains of the piper, the delights of traditional haggis (or chicken for the faint of heart), and of course the address. Who could resist...?



News from last week that you may have missed:

strawberry 160 160The online platform 'Adelaide.farm', was launched on Wednesday, January 11th, at the Regional Directorate of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Algarve, Patacão, Faro, to allow small producers to sell their products "at fair prices," delivering them to local points for collection by householders.

The project aims to "solve the problem of the disappearance of small farmers", although it could also cover large producers, explained its promoter, Alice Teixeira, who also wants to help stop the increasing abandonment of agricultural activity due to lack of economic viability.


bloodPaulo Lalanda e Castro was heard at the Court of Criminal Investigation in Lisbon on Wednesday, accused, along with Luís Cunha Ribeiro, the former president of the emergency ambulance service INEM, of using Ribeiro’s influence to unduly benefit Octapharma by ripping-off the State for hunderds of millions of euros.

The lawsuit has three more defendants, two lawyers and the former head of the Portuguese Hemophilia Association.


nucleardemonstrationBetween 200 and 300 people demonstrated on a freezing cold Thursday evening in front of the Spanish consulate in Lisbon against the Almaraz nuclear power plant and its planned nuclear waste dump.

The protest was attended by private citizens, ecologists and politicians from both Portugal and Spain.


guadianaSocial Democrat MPs have questioned the government over the "postponement of essential safety work to the Guadiana bridge."

Algarve MPs José Carlos Barros and Cristóvão Norte have asked about the "successive and unacceptable" postponement of maintenance and rehabilitation work at the Guadiana International Bridge.


yachtThe Vilamoura Marina in the Loulé council area has won the International Marina of Distinction: 2015-2017 awarded by The Yacht Harbor Association. The announcement was made today at the London Boat Show.

The awards is the top one for ‘International Marinas’ with Vilamoura winning the top slot three years running.


roadworksThe Minister for Infrastructure, Pedro Marques, re-launched the western Algarve section of roadworks today as if it was something we should be grateful for.

The work, that should have been finished years ago, now has a completion date of ‘the end of June 2017’ which inevitably will run on into the summer season accompanied by a range of increasingly improbable excuses.


nuclearToday’s long-overdue meeting in Madrid, between Spain and Portugal’s Ministers of the Environment concerning the proposed nuclear waste dump at Spain’s Almaraz power station, ended early today with zero progress.

"Portugal is going to ask Brussels to intervene. If there is a dispute, it has to be resolved by European bodies," said the Portuguese Environment Minister after the leaving the meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Isabel García Tejerina, and the Minister of Energy, Álvaro Nadal.




 and some features from last week:

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Euro Weekly Update - January 6th 2017

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Algarve Life....January sketches from Edwin Hagendoorn

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News from the studio and the camera lens

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Tomorrow Magazine - January 2017

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The Green Man Hotel - living in harmony with nature

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afpop and euroFINESCO IRS Tax Seminars

afpop and euroFINESCO IRS Tax Seminars



Until next week...


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