Onaga inching closer to canceling Henoko construction approval
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga stated at a press meeting on Feb. 24th that it’s highly possible that he would cancel the approval that the previous governor gave to the Okinawa Defense Bureau to destroy coral reefs in the waters off Henoko.
The approval given to the Okinawa Defense Bureau was necessary for starting the required inspection work to build the offshore runways for the replacement facility to the MCAS Futenma. At the meeting, Onaga said that his next step depends on the response to the request for an explanation of this issue from the Okinawa Defense Bureau.
Onaga has criticized the Defense Bureau that it has not yet answered anything to the prefectural government’s request regarding massive concrete blocks that were placed on the ocean floor as anchors for buoys to mark the area that is off limits. The Defense Bureau claims that prefecture officials had told them before that no permission was required for installing the blocks, some of which weigh up to 45 tons.
The prefectural government had three divers inspecting the reefs outside of the restricted area on Thursday taking pictures. The prefectural government will next analyze the pictures to determine the damage to the reef.
First, the prefectural government had expected to apply to the U.S. Government through the Okinawa Defense Bureau for permission for an on-site inspection at the restricted area. However, the Okinawa Defense Bureau advised Onaga to negotiate directly with the U.S. Government. Thus the governor decided to start the inspection from outside of the restricted area. Onaga is planning to request the U.S. Government for the permission at a later date.
According to prefectural officials, if Governor Onaga decides to cancel the approval for crushing the coral reefs, the Defense Bureau would not be able to continue the construction work such as the boring survey.
Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo that “It is regrettable the that prefecture unilaterally started the inspection.” He claimed that the ministry had had appropriate consultation with prefecture officials before installing the blocks. He added that the central government would continues the work at Henoko while doing all it can to minimize damage to the environment.