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Nago wants new governor to okay airport runway plan

Date Posted: 2006-12-01

Northern Okinawa’s being given an olive branch worth ¥10 billion, but there’s a small string attached.

Japan’s central government is offering Nago City and northern Okinawa development money, but it is linked to construction of the new replacement airfield slated for Camp Schwab. The project was finalized by Japan and U.S. governments last May, but local Okinawa officials, including the governor’s office, haven’t agreed to it.

Nago City Mayor Yoshikazu Shimabukuro wants the airfield, and wants the money. He and his city have already agreed to construction of the airfield, complete with the V-shape twin runways. They are to replace the controversial Futenma Marine Corps Air Station by 2014.

Hirokazu Nakaima, Okinawa’s governor-elect, has generally supported creating a new airport in northern Okinawa, but has balked at the V-shape runways concept. Throughout his campaign he called the design flawed, because it would put aircraft flying over residential areas. Retiring governor Keiichi Inamine has been ardently opposed to even constructing the new airfield within the Prefecture.

Shimabukuro is pushing for Nakaima to reevaluate his position as he takes office December 9th, and to accept the V-runway plan. The grants and subsidies are big money for Nago City, and will drastically change the city’s posture over the next decade with the cash infusion. The Nago City 2008 and 2009 budgets will depend on Nakaima’s next move.

The central government money will cover 95% of construction costs on facilities to include ports, bridges, roads, monorails and schools. The government usually only offers 55-60% financial aid.

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