Communiqué of the Council of Ministers of March 4, 2021 – The integrated management system for rural fires (SGIFR

The Council of Ministers, chaired by His Excellency the President of the Republic, gathered and approved a set of diplomas that reinforce the priority given by the Government to the reform of the forestry sector within the framework of the valorization of the national territory.

As the forest is an asset of enormous strategic relevance for economic development and environmental sustainability, the measures approved today continue the integrated strategy initiated in the previous legislature with a view to reforming the sector that protects its resources and promotes its assets.

Reinforcing the measures already implemented and in progress, the Council of Ministers defined actions in three areas: integrated management system for rural fires; ordering of agricultural and forestry space; and strengthening civil protection.

Regarding the integrated management system for rural fires (SGIFR), the following diplomas were approved:

– Draft law requesting the Assembly of the Republic legislative authorization to establish means of protection for the fulfillment of the duties of preventing the occurrence of rural fires, mechanisms of accountability for the non-fulfillment of these duties, and security measures in situations of high danger or danger of rural fire, within the scope of the decree-law that creates the SGIFR and establishes its operating rules;

– Resolution that approves, in general, the National Action Program of the National Plan for Integrated Management of Rural Fires (PNGIFR). This action program, which will be submitted to public consultation, concretizes the strategic guidelines and specific objectives of PNGIFR, identifying 28 programs and 97 projects that will impact the scope of the PNGIFR vision: «Portugal protected from serious rural fires». Increased efficiency and effectiveness of the measures foreseen for risk management are strengthened, with a reduction of damages and burnt areas and with the consequent increase in the appreciation of the territory and appetite for investment;

– Resolution that creates three pilot projects with the objective of promoting organization, resources and the process chain within the scope of the National Plan for Integrated Management of Rural Fires. The results of these pilot projects will make it possible to assess the adequacy of the system for adopting the most appropriate measures to enhance the effectiveness of work processes and, consequently, the achievement of PNGIFR goals.

In the field of land and agricultural planning, the following were approved:

– The amendment of the Legal Regime for Territorial Management Instruments, which aims to ensure the conclusion of the adoption of the rules for classification and qualification of the soil in municipal or intermunicipal plans. The diploma introduces several adjustments to this regime, more than five years after its approval, for example with regard to the preventive measures adopted to guarantee the elaboration, alteration or revision of special programs or in matters of soil reclassification, when it is intended areas of business location close to urban land;

– the Investment Plan for Forest Territories under Management by the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests, aiming at framing the different measures and actions to be developed over the next four years, measures based on strategic axes aimed at the management, recovery and enhancement of the territories forestry;

– restoration and enhancement projects for natural habitats, with structural fire prevention, in the Natural Parks of the North Coast, Alvão, Serra da Estrela, Sintra-Cascais and Vale do Guadiana. This resolution supports the 4th generation of projects with a focus on the active conservation of protected areas, combining investment aimed at restoring and enhancing natural habitats with structural fire prevention, while also ensuring the provision of the means and equipment necessary that effect. The funds dedicated to these projects increase from 21 to 26 million euros, with a total of 19 protected areas now covered;

– the «Project for the promotion of co-management in nationally protected areas», through which it is intended to boost, over three years, the adoption, development and execution of the co-management model, providing each of the 32 protected areas with national financing scope that allows technical and operational support, dedicated to the implementation of the activities considered priority in the scope of the promotion of co-management;

– Resolution approving measures for vulnerable territories that aim to promote agricultural activity, the dynamism of rural territories and the creation of value in innovation and food security. This set of actions assumes particular importance in low density territories, allowing to reposition the interior of Portugal as a space of new attractiveness, bet on its potential to accommodate innovative and competitive business investment, as well as to respond to the strategic challenge of governance to counter the decline demographic in these territories;

– creation of the «National Forestry Prize». Bianual, worth 50 thousand euros, this prize aims to boost and disseminate the knowledge produced in the forest area, the techniques and good practices of forest management and good information; promoting the resilience of the territories and the sustainable valuation of their assets, mobilizing society and the development of collaborative processes; and strengthening civic awareness about the value of forest territories.

With a view to strengthening civil protection, the following diplomas were approved:

– National Strategy for Preventive Civil Protection 2030, which will be submitted to public consultation. The diploma defines five strategic objectives (to strengthen governance in risk management; to improve knowledge about risks; to implement strategies for risk reduction; to improve preparedness in the event of risk; and to involve citizens in the knowledge of risks), which translate into projects and activities to be implemented by Central and Local Administration;

– Resolution establishing a set of measures aimed at reformulating the model of education and training in civil protection, with a view to fostering the knowledge and technical training of the elements of the fire brigades, other civil protection agents and the entities that compose the civil protection system. It is foreseen to integrate the training offer provided by the National Fire Department with that of higher education institutions, collaborative laboratories and relevant research units in this area, encouraging the development of partnerships and common educational projects and the strengthening of professional training;

– constitution of the Strategic Civil Protection Reserve, in order to guarantee a reserve of material and support equipment that allows a swift, adequate and effective response both to the assistance to the affected populations, in Portugal or abroad, or to the operational support of the victims themselves, response forces of the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority;

– Decree-law that changes the organics of the Agency for the Integrated Management of Rural Fires, the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests, and the National Authority for Emergency and Civil Protection, aiming at strengthening the operational response capacity, expanding the recruitment universe and consolidating the career regime of the personnel of the Special Civil Protection Force;

– Resolution approving the acquisition of state owned and permanent air assets, including 6 light helicopters, 6 medium bomber helicopters and 2 heavy amphibious bomber planes, and the lease of aerial assets for the Special Rural Fire Fighting Device for the period of 2023 to 2026. In this way, the stabilization of the aerial means related to the device of aerial means to fight rural fires is ensured, which will start to be based on a combination of own and leased means.

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