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The country’s never-ending airport story returned to square one this month when Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) refused to evaluate the request submitted by ANA – the French construction group that runs Portugal’s airports – to build a second hub for Lisbon’s airport at Montijo – at present a military airbase – on the southern bank of the Tagus river.

The country’s booming tourism industry – briskly brought to a halt last year by the coronavirus pandemic – complains already for years about the lack of capacity at Lisbon’s overcrowded inner-city airport.

Plans for a second airport near the capital have been under consideration for over a decade. The government of António Guterres choose Ota. Then came Alcochete, than Alverca. Later Portela+1, which after a vague announcement by the government of Passos Coelho and the determination of António Costa finally resulted in Montijo.

Very much against legal protests from two local communist councils – Moita and Seixal – and environmental concerns regarding precious birdlife in the Tagus estuary.

In a statement, ANAC declared, that it had no choice but to reject the request and explained that according to Portuguese law, it could only evaluate the project if all local governments provide positive feedback.

Despite this setback for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, the PS socialist government said it wouldn’t give up and is studying solutions for the impasse, including building the controversial airport elsewhere and re-evaluating the law allowing municipalities to veto plans of national importance.

As a matter of fact, the government is proposing three possibilities.
The first is to push forward with the current project and get support from the biggest opposition party PSD (Social Democrats) in Parliament to change the law so that the local opposition becomes meaningless.

The second is to make Montijo the principal airport and Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado a complementary terminal. The third would be the construction of a new international airport at the Campo do Tiro in Alcochete – about 40 km northeast of Lisbon – an option already favored by some of the many critics of the Montijo location.

With the project once again returning to square one, the successive heads of state resemble king Sisyphus in ancient Greece, who was punished by being forced to roll an immense stone up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Expresso)


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