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Editorial on third-party committee on Henoko relocation created by Okinawa governor

  • 2015-01-28 15:00:00
  • , Ryukyu Shimpo
  • Translation

(Ryukyu Shimpo: January 28, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 Governor Takeshi Onaga has created a third-party committee of experts to look into the approval process for the landfill in waters off Henoko for the relocation of the U.S. forces’ Futenma Air Station. The committee will investigate whether there are any legal flaws in the previous governor’s approval, with the possibility of canceling or withdrawing the permission. The governor said that the committee will report its findings “some time between April and June” and that he is seeking results and a decision as soon as possible. Large ships have already begun operations at the site, so it is necessary to speed up the examination process.

 

 Three lawyers and an expert on environmental issues have been named as committee members. Two more environmental specialists will be appointed to the six-member panel. The reason why the environmentalist slots have not been filled is because several people asked to take up the job declined. We hope that experts who have been involved with environmental studies will cooperate with the prefectural government’s review efforts and make good use of their knowledge.

 

 The focus of this examination process is likely to be whether the reclamation project meets standards in terms of “full consideration for environmental conservation” and constitutes “appropriate and rational use of national land.” Before the former governor granted his permission, the prefectural government’s culture and environment department had submitted 48 opinions on “lingering concerns.” We hope that the committee goes into a detailed analysis of why the governor granted his approval despite such concerns.

 

 The review process should not be done solely by the committee members. Prefectural officials under the Onaga administration need to work in the same direction. Officials who were involved with the approval process have the responsibility to cooperate fully with the committee.

 

 The prefectural government has asked the Tokyo government to suspend construction work in Henoko while the review process is taking place. Yet, large crane ships were brought in to start dropping concrete blocks onto the seabed the very next day after the committee was formed. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says the government will proceed with the project “steadily,” indicating total disregard of the prefectural government’s wishes. This is outrageous.

 

 The national government takes the position that with the previous governor’s approval, “a decision has been made based on the relevant laws in a country under the rule of law.” However, what does it think of the popular will in Okinawa, where a governor opposed to relocation has been elected? It goes without saying that the construction work should be suspended while the review is being conducted.

 

 The third-party committee will hold its first meeting in early February. It will hold meetings about twice a month to conduct the review. The relocation project is now being accelerated. Shouldn’t the committee meet more frequently to speed up the examination process? It is necessary to be armed with theoretical backing in order to demand the cancellation or withdrawal of the landfill permit before the actual reclamation starts and it becomes too late.

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