Government panel members received 11 million yen from contractors to build new US base in Henoko

October 20, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Three experts of the 13 members of an environmental oversight panel set up by the Okinawa Defense Bureau of the Ministry of Defense have received donations totalling 11 million yen from the companies that received orders to build a new U.S. base in Henoko, Nago, since they assumed their post in April last year. The governments of Japan and the United States are advancing with the project to build the new base in Henoko, where they will relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan.

Professor Nobuaki Arai, a dugong expert at Kyoto University, has received 8 million yen from an environment construction consultant company. Professor Hajime Kayane, a coral reef expert at the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo, was paid 2 million yen from a construction company and 500,000 yen from a construction consultant company.

The chairman of the panel Yoshiyuki Nakamura, a professor of the Graduate School of Yokohama National University, has received a 500,000 yen donation from a construction company.

The donations were paid through the universities as research grants. However, professors have no obligation to report on how they use donation money to university authorities and donors.

According to professors Arai and Kayane, the donations have not influenced the deliberations of the panel. However, even thought it is not illegal to receive donations, they are considering resigning from the panel if society deems the donations inappropriate.

Panel member Takeshi Hara, president of the Japan Fisheries Science and Technology Association, has received a 2-3 million yen annual salary as a board member of a nonprofit organization (NPO) since 2008. The representative of the organization is president of the environment construction consultant company that received orders for the Henoko project.

The four members of the panel have admitted they received the donations.

One of the companies, which donated money to the members of the panel, has received an order to do the seawall construction for the new base. The company revealed on October 19 that it had employed retired officers from the Ministry of the Defense.
The company did not reveal how many former Ministry of the Defense staff it employed and would not comment on their involvement of the new base construction.

According to a Ministry of Defense publication, one of the two environment construction consultant companies has been employing retired officers from the Ministry of the Defense since 2010.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on October 19, “The panel has discussed the matter from a fair and neutral position.” He claimed that there was no problem with the donations and remuneration the panel members received from the companies.

(English translation by T&CT)

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