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Fight looms as DFAB yanks Henoko contracts

Date Posted: 2006-03-24

Construction companies have been laboring in the Henoko area for nearly two years, only to learn this week their contracts are being voided or not renewed.

The Defense Facilities Administration Bureau, after spending ¥2 billion since 1997 on the Henoko relocation plan for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, pulled the plug and declared 20 contracts with 13 contractors were null and void. The contracts covered environment and measurement surveys, bridge designs and other projects necessary to prepare the northern Okinawa area for a replacement airfield for the current Marine Corps base in Ginowan.

Observers say the DFAB move means, effectively, the Henoko relocation plan agreed to in 1999 by the Japan Cabinet is now dead. The government agency says it will coordinate with the individual companies regarding payments and settlements springing from the cancellations.

Contractors say they don’t believe it. “Yes, it was agreed between us and the Self Defense Force, Naha District,” a construction industry spokesman says. “They have to pay us.” He says construction is now stopped, but the companies’ people are ready every day with boats, materials and people, something they’ve been doing since 2004.

Heavy protests and demonstrations, both on the shores of northern Okinawa and on the water, led to the government freezing the surveys that were to gather information needed for determining where to place seawalls and pilings to support a runway that was to extend into the bay near Camp Schwab. The protesters interfered with the workers, causing potential for deaths and injuries before the work stoppage was ordered by the government.

Contractors want compensation for their work, noting that their ship costs alone totaled more than ¥3,000,000 per day. They say they’ll go to court, if necessary, to get their money. The contracts most evident in this dispute have a value of ¥800,000,000.

The contractors and their vendors want to be paid, but have been told by DFAB officials there’s no money available. Still, DFAB says it’s likely weather surveys of the Henoko area will continue because that data could be valuable if the decision is made to construct the Futenma replacement facility at Camp Schwab.

That could happen soon. Japan Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga last week told Mikio Shimoji, an Okinawa member of the Diet, that there are plans for the Cabinet to approve the plan to move Futenma to Camp Schwab. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taro Aso, and Nukaga both told Shimoji the action would happen as soon as the final report on realignment of U.S. forces in Japan is signed.

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