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Posted by portugalpress on May 17, 2018

The headlines say one thing, the truth is another. After yesterday’s announcement that drilling for oil and natural gas will be going ahead without any kind of environmental impact study, government sources released a new soundbite to the effect that “the government prohibits new licences for oil wells in Portugal”.

On face value, it looked like some kind of pledge. But the ‘small print’ says otherwise. The prohibition is simply in place until after legislative elections in 2019. In other words, there is a moratorium of 18-months at best, and then all the concessions marked out over the country’s coastline and onshore come back into play.

Meantime, concessions onshore - dubbed Batalha and Pombal, and including even the sacred sanctuary of Fátima - are also to go ahead as soon as they have the necessary investment.

Said foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva: “We are honouring contractual obligations in the name of the Portuguese State”.

As for the exploratory well now planned for sinking towards the end of the summer (permission runs from September 15 to January 15, 2019), Santos Silva said APA’s decision “does not constitute any alteration to the firm commitment assumed by the Government to see Portugal ‘carbon-neutral’ by 2050”.

APA’s green-light comes with the proviso of 50 measures designed, says the government to secure safety and limit environmental risks.

Once exploratory drilling has confirmed that commercial levels of oil/ natural gas do indeed exist kilometres under the seabed, a full environmental impact study will be required before GALP/ ENI get the go-ahead for production.

As we wrote yesterday, environmental campaigners see the government’s stance as a slap-in-the-face to local populations, municipalities and business associations - all of which have repeatedly denounced fossil fuel exploration as the direction in which Portugal should be moving.

A protest will be going ahead at 4.30pm today outside Aljezur town hall - convened by MALP - to reinforce local fury, and challenge new mayor José Gonçalves to make a stand.

Gonçalves’ feelings about oil exploration have not be officially logged as he only recently took over from outgoing ‘anti-oil mayor’ José Amarelinho.