Money and promises flow over Henoko plan

Demonstrations and public opposition to the Henoko plan are well documented in daily TV news, but for many businesses building the Futenma replacement facility to Henoko would mean survival and prosperity.

The lure of the riches is strong, and some companies and individuals are increasingly resorting to questionable means to get a piece of the pie. This is evident, as shady donations to politicians and parties thought to have influence in decisions on where the contracts eventually will go are piling up almost on daily basis.

According to a report in Asahi Shimbun, a medium-size company from Okinawa City donated a total of ¥900,000 to six candidates running in single-seat districts in Okinawa Prefecture in the 2014 Lower House election. The report says that the party branches of the six candidates received ¥100,000 to ¥200,000 each before the Lower House elections in 2014.

The same company had signed a contract worth about ¥290 million yen with the Okinawa Defense Bureau the same year, to construct shore embankments in Camp Schwab where he replacement facility is slated to be built. It’s against the Public Offices Election Law for companies with signed contracts with the central government to make donations related to national elections.

The company naturally denies any intention to affect the election or that its donations had anything to do with the fact that it had won the contract.

Five of the six recipients of the funds have returned the money since the donations became public knowledge, claiming that hey were not aware that the company had won the construction contract at the time they received the money. The sixth is still considering what to do.

According to officials at the Okinawa Defense Bureau, the total budget for the Henoko plan is expected to reach at least ¥350 billion yen.

But it’s a two-way street. On its part the central government that is pushing for the construction project over local opposition has earmarked money to districts surrounding the Henoko area bypassing the Okinawa Prefectural and Nago City governments, who oppose the plan, and consider such a largesse by the central government an attempt to bribe the local communities.

In Ginowan City that is currently the host for the MCAS Futenma, a mayoral race is heating up. Incumbent Mayor Atsushi Sakima, who wants the base out of his city regardless where it would go, has flouted an idea to have Disney to build a facility on the Futenma base land once it closes.

Sakima presented his idea to the Prime Minister’s Office, and got the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s enthusiastic endorsement to his idea. “It’s very much dream inspiring,’ Suga reportedly said, and pledged the full support of the cabinet for the plan. Suga has also reportedly talked about the idea with executives at Oriental Land Co., a company that operates the Tokyo Disneyland.

According to Kyodo News, a representative of the Oriental Land has confirmed that Ginowan City has asked them to consider building a facility, but said that, “We have only received such a request and will study it. That’s all, no conclusions have been made on this.”

14:56 26 Oct , 2016