Okinawa Governor orders Defense Bureau to stop installing concrete blocks in the sea off Henoko
February 17, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
As part of the forced relocation of U.S Marine Corps Air Station to Henoko in Nago City, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has dropped concrete blocks weighing between 10 and 45 tons on the seabed at dozens of locations off the coast of Henoko. The concrete blocks placed on the seabed have damaged coral. On February 16, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga held a press conference at Okinawa Prefectural Government Office. Onaga announced that he has ordered the bureau to stop dropping the blocks and not to move the ones already dropped. This is the first time the Okinawa governor has exercised his gubernatorial authority to prevent the Henoko landfill. Onaga claimed the bureau has dropped blocks out beyond the area where the Okinawa Prefectural government (led by former Governor Hirokazu Nakaima) approved rock reef destruction. He clearly stated that if the bureau does not follow the order, he will consider cancelling the land reclamation work approved by Nakaima.
Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani said, “We are carrying out the landfill lawfully.”
The Okinawa Prefectural Government has demanded the bureau stop the operations beyond the area where rock reef destruction was approved last August, and submit related documents. After receiving these documents from the bureau, the prefectural government plans to order the bureau to restore the original condition of the seabed. They plan to survey the scene for about 10 days from February 27 to check the extent of damage to the coral.
Onaga talked to the press, saying, “It is a real shame the bureau’s acts have damaged coral when the prefectural government requested they postpone the drilling survey ahead of the planned construction.” If the governor decides to cancel the approval of rock reef destruction, it will have a huge influence on the relocation plan.
The prefectural government demanded the bureau submit documents, including a drawing sheet of the blocks, the exact location where they were placed, how heavy they are, and seabed photographs before and after the blocks were dropped, by February 23. The prefectural government warned that if the bureau does not follow the order, the Okinawa governor may cancel the approval.
When former Okinawa Governor Nakaima approved rock reef destruction in the marine area covering 172 hectares, it was on the basis that the bureau follows orders from the prefectural government for the reason of the public interest. The prefectural government also mandated that cancellation of the approval could happen if violations of terms are found. These conditions are based on the Okinawa Prefectural fisheries industry adjustment rules.
In his press conference on February 16, Hiroshige Seko, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, claimed, “The prefectural government said that placing the blocks on the seabed does not require permission. We are following that.” Seko added, “We have carried out the reclamation work through appropriate and delicate processes. It is really deplorable that the Okinawa governor has made such an order.”
Since the bureau started dropping the blocks on the seabed off the coast of Henoko, citizen groups have confirmed that it has damaged coral and the prefectural government has questioned the operation. Receiving the order from the prefectural government, the Okinawa Defense Bureau said, “We are now verifying the facts.”
The Fisheries Agency stipulated the Act on the Protection of Fisheries Resources, on which the Okinawa Prefectural fisheries industry adjustment rules are based. The agency said that it has never seen the cancellation of rock reef destruction.
(English translation by T&CT)
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