Ministry submits application for land reclamation for alternative facility at Henoko

Ministry submits application for land reclamation for alternative facility at Henoko

Coastal area of Henoko in Nago, the relocation site for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Photograph taken from Nippon Television’s plane in the afternoon of March 16.

March 23, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

The central government has submitted an application to the Governor of Okinawa for permission to reclaim land off Henoko, Nago in order to commence the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. At 3:40pm on March 22, officials of the Okinawa Defense Bureau delivered the documents to a local office of the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG). They also presented a letter of consent from the Nago Fisheries Cooperative, which has the fishing rights for the sea off the coast. If all the documents are in order, the OPG will accept the application in the course of the next week. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima will decide whether or not he will allow the landfill, after hearing from the Nago mayor and others, in a term of from six and a half months to eight and a half months.

On March 22, at the Okinawa Prefectural Government Office, Governor Nakaima again argued for relocation outside Okinawa when he heard that the central government had submitted its application for approval to reclaim land off Henoko, Nago.

Governor Nakaima and all the heads of the 41 municipalities have been calling for the relocation of the facilities currently at Futenma to somewhere outside the prefecture. The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly is considering adopting a protest resolution and submitting a written statement of opinion to the central government. Protests from Okinawa are bound to increase given that the Abe administration clearly intends to force through the Henoko relocation. The application documents state that the landfill area, including five hectares to be used for work-yards, will be about 160 hectares, with a total landfill soil volume of about 21 million cubic meters. It will take five years to complete the landfill.

When talking to reporters that evening, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commented, “Our basic policy is to not allow the facilities at Futenma to become a permanent fixture. I want to make every effort to reduce the burden on Okinawa.” He also said that he intends to promote the planned relocation of the facilities at Futenma to Henoko based on the bilateral agreement between Japan and the United States.

In the afternoon of March 22, at the Ministry of Defense, Defense Minister Onodera held a press conference regarding the application to apply for the reclamation of the coastal area of Henoko, Nago.

In a press conference that evening, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said, “We have reached an agreement with the Nago Fisheries Cooperative, so we moved quickly to submit the written application for approval of the landfill. We will strive to get approval from the Governor of Okinawa, and will also exchange opinions with the Okinawa Prefectural Government. This is the first time that we have got as far as the starting line.”

At a board meeting held that afternoon, the Nago Fisheries Cooperative decided to submit a letter of consent to approve the landfill, and at 3:00pm they handed this to Defense Agency staff.

Hiroshi Kohagura, the president of cooperative, said, “We have already signed a memorandum of agreement with the Okinawa Defense Bureau on the total amount of compensation to be paid for fisheries and other measures for development. We are ready to present it at any time.” He declined to comment on the amount of compensation.

According to the local office of the OPG, six Okinawa Defense Bureau officials left five boxes containing the documents on the counter of the General Affairs Section on the third floor of the office building. They left a few minutes later. Just five minutes earlier there was a telephone call to the effect that they would deliver the application documents to the Seashore Disaster Prevention Division of the OPG.

When Prime Minister Abe met President Obama in February, he indicated that the government would apply for the landfill by the end of March. The Abe administration was probably determined to show the United States that, based on what has been agreed, they are actually moving to relocate the facilities at Futenma Air Station. They are trying to show that local people have agreed with the landfill by attaching the letter of consent from the Nago Fisheries Cooperative, which is not actually required as part of the application procedure.

The governor of Okinawa criticized the central government, saying that the facilities at Futenma “will become a permanent fixture.”
On March 22, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima commented that while the central government said that “Futenma cannot be allowed to become a permanent fixture, … because it will take from five to ten years to relocate the base to Henoko this effectively represents a policy of making the base into a permanent fixture. This is unrealistic and impossible.” Nakaima again asked for the base to be relocated outside of the prefecture, saying that, “to resolve the Futenma issue, the best option is to move the facilities outside of Okinawa.”

The governor sharply criticized the governments of Japan and the United States, saying, “Normally speaking, people don’t start things without studying the feasibility, but in this case they have just decided by themselves to go ahead.”

With regard to whether or not he will approve the application for land reclamation to build the base, the governor said that he will decide after looking at all aspects, including how the central government has corrected measures that the governor pointed out in the process of the environmental impact assessment.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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