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Henoko drilling surveys Stifled by demonstrators

Date Posted: 2004-04-29

The first steps toward relocating the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station from Ginowan to a site in northern Okinawa involve drilling surveys.

The Defense Facilities Administrative Bureau is preparing to conduct the tests, but encountering opposition from Henoko Fishing Port residents in Nago City. About 60 people have stalled efforts to begin the project since last week.

As the controversy grows, even Japan’s Prime Minister is becoming involved. Junichiro Koizumi says the project is essential and must go forward, but is urging DFAB to consider the “feelings of the local municipal government and the residents’ thoughts.”

He says the project must be done in as “smooth a manner as possible.”

Nago City Assembly members have held an emergency meeting to discuss the project, noting that “residents want the DFAB to explain things to them. The prefecture has been requesting that DFAAB explain.” Residents are concerned about potential environmental problems, saying the ocean must be kept clean.

“Don’t make a dirty ocean. Keep all important animals like corals and dudongsg and their foods protected. Don’t let them die,” said one Nago City resident. Others want DFAB to explain exactly what the work will entail. Nago City Assembly members don’t want to explain the planning, or to publish it.

DFAB says “we have reported to the Prefecture already about our construction work plan. Without doing that, we wouldn’t start work. So why doesn’t the prefecture want to publish the report to its citizens?” And a Nago City Assembly member says “it’s not necessary to explain to citizens.”

Residents are asking why that is. Honoko residents say they’ll never understand, and that is why they are staging their sit-in at the Henoko Fishing Port, where the project will begin. “Without an explanation of the work plan, we don’t go away,” said one.

A frustrated Assembly member responds to the charge, saying “how many time should we explain to you? We did explain about the environmental considerations through the newspaper many times, a long time ago. Please read and study.” Nago City officials are reminding protesters that “there is information at the Assembly members’ offices about the environmental considerations. Please go there and check.”

Neither side is showing signs of giving in. Residents and other opposition demonstrators are insisting on new answers from DFAB. DFAB says it isn’t necessary, although they’ve okayed a plan to have a representative of the Prefectural Government on site during the drilling survey project.

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