2019年2月26日火曜日

Yambaru Forest's Second Attempt for World Natural Heritage Status: Improvements and Challenges

2019 Nomination Document 
On February 1, 2019,  the Japanese Ministry of the Environment submitted to UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) its nomination of four areas in the Ryukyu archipelago for UNESCO World Natural Heritage status. The areas are Amami-Oshima Island, Tokuno-Shima Island, the Northern Part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island
(see the Nomination Document and the Nomination Annexes).

The nomination is the Ministry's second attempt in the last two years.  

In February 2017, the Ministry submitted its first nomination.  However, in May 2018, IUCN, the advisory body to UNESCO concerning matters related to World Natural Heritage, recommended that the nomination should be "deferred" requesting a substantial revision. In response, the Ministry withdrew the nomination.

In the present nomination dossier, we see improvements
from the previous nomination, especially regarding the issues of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area (NTA), which sits next to the nominated area of the "Northern Part of Okinawa Island” (NPOI). NTA  occupies 3,600 ha whereas the NPOI is 7,700 ha in what Okinawan people refer to as Yambaru forest.   

The improvements reflect the efforts of local residents and civil society members to direct IUCN's attention to the issues of NTA. They attest to the integrity of (the World Heritage Panel of) IUCN: IUCN did not dodge these otherwise difficult political issues in its evaluation of the nomination. They confirm the renewed determination of the Ministry of the Environment to get the areas inscribed as WNH sites (see the Ministry's work on the Yambaru National Park).

However, many challenges remain and need to be resolved before IUCN can incontrovertibly recommend to UNESCO World Heritage Committee that the nominated areas be inscribed as WNH sites. 

Below is our explanation of what we mean by the "improvements."

Before the Improvements: The First Nomination
In February 2017, the Ministry submitted to IUCN its nomination of the same four areas for WNH status the first time.
photo 10 of Yambaru National Park
Okinawa Woodpecker in Yambaru Forest
© Ministry of the Environment

The nomination dossier presented detailed descriptions of the ecological systems and biodiversity of the nominated areas. It made the argument that these areas all meet the requirements for WNH status.  

However, it barely mentioned the presence of NTA in the Yambaru forest and provided no discussion on environmental concerns and problems presented by NTA for the nomination.

In the 320 pages dossier, the following sentences were the most extensive description of NTA.

"As of December 2016, the US military bases within Okinawa Prefecture cover an area of 18,822 ha, which accounts for 8% of the prefecture’s total area. In particular, the US military installations in Kunigami Village and Higashi Village, located in the northern part of Okinawa Island containing the nominated property, occupy an area of 1,446 ha (7% of the village’s land) and 2,267 ha (28% of the village’s land), respectively. Much of the areas, or 3,658 ha, is used for the Camp Gonsalves (also known as Northern Training Area)." (p.94)

There was no information on the impacts of low altitude flight training by military aircraft taking place in NTA on the adjacent NPOI area. There was no word on whether the U.S. military or government was collaborating with the Japanese government in the nomination and inscription processes. There was no inclusion or mentioning of the US military's documents regarding the environment of NTA, which are accessible and obtainable. 

The Ministry of the Environment repeatedly told NGOs that its "lack of jurisdiction over NTA" prevented the ministry from discussing NTA in the dossier.

Civil Society Addressing Issues of NTA
By the time the Ministry of the Environment submitted its first nomination, we civil society members had already requested that the Ministry address the issues of NTA (especially construction of six helipads) and secure collaboration from the U.S. government. We had also sent a letter to the U.S. military and the government, requesting them to collaborate with the Japanese government. 

We insisted that, given that NTA sits next to the nominated area of NPOI, collaboration between the Japanese and the U.S. military and government is necessary. 


Letter to U.S. Government and Military
published in the Japan Times
After reviewing the dossier, we then began sending additional information to IUCN.  Our information included NGOs' analysis of the nomination dossier (see the analysis) and our letter to the U.S. government and U.S. military (see the letter published in the Japan Times). It also included a list of literature regarding the impacts of NTA on the Yambaru forest. 

It also included copies of excerpts of the U.S. Marines’ Integrated Natural Resources and Cultural Resources Management  Plan (INRCRMP), which provide information on the environment of NTA as well as on military training and conservation measures carried out in NTA.
(NGOs questioned IUCN and the Ministry: if NGOs could get information on NTA from the U.S. military, why couldn't the Ministry of the Environment do it?)

Our efforts also gained global support.

In June 2017, at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Krakow, Poland, a U.S. NGO helped distribute to attendees copies of the briefing package Japanese NGOs had prepared regarding NTA (see the Briefing Package).

In December 2017, the City Council of the City of Berkeley, California adopted a resolution endorsing the NGO’s request for the U.S. government and military to collaborate with the Japanese government for the nomination and inscription of the NPOI as a WNH site (see the Resolution).


The Ministry's Supplementary Information and IUCN Recommendations
Apparently responding in part to the civil society's requests and concerns sent to IUCN, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment provided supplementary information to IUCN to secure the nomination process would go without trouble.


IUCN World Heritage Panel
©IUCN
IUCN's 2018 WNH nomination evaluation has revealed that the supplementary information included the following (see IUCN's Evaluation):

1) "The Ministry of the Environment is planning to include as much as possible the retuned NTA in the Yambaru National Park and the nominated property, and is in a position to add areas to the property quickly." (p.43)

2) "For the time being, the remaining NTA remains under US control but acts as an important de facto buffer zone to the nominated property, contributing to landscape connectivity and also supporting important habitats for key species." (p.43)

3) "There is also a basic 'collaboration agreement' (memorandum of 7 December 2016) between the GOvernment of Japan and the US Government on their cooperation for nature conservation - especially IAS (invasive alien species) control and species monitoring - in the remaining Northern Training Area which neighbors the nominated property on Okinawa." (p.43)

To the surprise of the Ministry, however, in May 2018, the IUCN recommended that the nomination by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment should be “deferred” (see the Ryukyu Shimpo).

The returned and the remaining areas of NTA next to the nominated area of NPOI remained as problems for IUCN.   In its diplomatic language, IUCN presents the following evaluation.

 "IUCN does not consider that the area(s) as nominated meets the integrity requirements." "On Okinawa, the nominated areas appear quite fragmented on the map, although there is a good degree of overall landscape and habitat connectivity, mostly through the intact forest in the returned and remaining NTA, which are not currently included in the nominated area, nor buffer zones" (p.44). 

Thus, IUCN recommended, among other things, that the Ministry "integrate the returned areas of the Northern Training Area on Okinawa Island into the nominated property, as appropriate, taking into consideration their contribution to the justification of criterion (biodiversity), and further develop the necessary coordination mechanisms to integrate the remaining areas of the Northern Training Area into the overall planning and management of the nominated property" (p.46).

In response to the recommendations, in June 2018, the Ministry withdrew the nomination (see the Japan Times). We suspected that the Ministry wanted to avoid by all means that the issues of NTA and other issues in the nomination would be exposed at the World Heritage Committee Meeting in Manama Bahrain in the summer of 2018.

Revised Nomination: Improvements
2019 Nomination Document
On February 1, 2019, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment submitted its revised nomination with a sense of urgency (this could be the Ministry's last chance) (see the Ryukyu Shimpo) (see also the Nomination Document and the Nomination Annexes). 

This time, the nomination dossier includes information (albite limited) on NTA, a discussion on the collaboration between the Japanese and U.S. governments with the text of the "Document Concerning Cooperation with the United State Government in Northern Training Area" (the Japan-US Joint Committee) in the nomination annexes (p.5-541), and excerpts of the U.S. Marines’ Integrated Natural Resources and Cultural Resources Management Plan (INRCRMP) also in the appendix (pp.5-487-540).

In other words, the Ministry of the Environment (and the U.S. government) has incorporated into the nomination documents what we civil society members had demanded to be incorporated. With these "improvements," the revised nomination is an achievement for us civil society members as well.
P.243 of the Nomination Document 

The inclusion of such information in the new dossier is significant. The Japanese government is usually extremely reluctant to disclose information relating to the U.S. military in Japan, especially "agreements" made in the secretive Japan-US Joint Committee. Documented now in these international convention-bound documents, the information, especially the collaboration agreement, should be used as valuable tools to secure the NPOI as a WNH site.   

Challenges
Much work remains ahead of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, civil society members and the U.S. military and government.  

After all, a dossier is just a dossier. The mere inclusion of information on the environment of NTA, both returned and remaining, and the collaboration agreement in the new nomination dossier alone cannot resolve actual problems.  

Even the information itself may need further scrutiny. For example, the new nomination document claims that the Japanese government conducted surveys in the returned area of NTA now included in the NPOI and confirmed the areas surveyed are "free from soil pollution and water contamination.” (p.128)  However, many parts of the returned area are littered with bullet shells, unexploded ordinance, and other discarded military materials including toxic chemicals (see the Ryukyu Shimpo).


© K. Urano
It is also hard at this point to gauge to what extent the "collaboration agreement" is effective. The U.S. military’s aircraft flight training in NTA appears to be intensifying, creating more “noise pollution" than before in NTA. This is because while the area of NTA was reduced due to a half of the original size (the returned are is now part of the NPOI), “the same amount of training" is being carried out in the remaining NTA (see p. 113, The U.S. Marine's Integrated Natural Resources and Cultural Resources Management Plan, 2014). 

It is also difficult to envisage how the construction of a new U.S. military airbase in Henoko-Oura Bay, just 10 miles away from the nominated area of NPOI, will affect the nomination process. The 2018 IUCN evaluation "confirmed this development (the base construction site) is distant from the nominated property." (p.46)  Should the base be constructed, however, many aircraft (more than 70 aircraft are expected to be stationed on the base) will take off from the base, fly to the Yambaru forest, and carry out their low altitude flight training in and around NTA.  

These issues need to be addressed and acceptable solutions need to be presented or at least proposed in the next fifteen months before IUCN make its final decision on the nomination. 

To that end, all the parties involved must maximize their efforts by building upon the improvements made in the nomination dossier. 



Stream in Yambaru Forest

HY   


2019年2月12日火曜日

Abe Government's Admission of Flaws in Henoko Base Construction Plan Challenges the Integrity of U.S. and International Institutions

Abe Government's Reluctant Admission
© Asahi Shimbun
After a long silence, the Abe government finally admits that the construction of a U.S. military base at Henoko-Oura Bay in Okinawa requires significant changes to the original land reclamation plan (see Asahi Shimbun). Parts of the seafloor of the construction site have proven to be extremely fragile, or mayonnaise-like condition. To solidify the seafloor to support a functional airport, a "sand compaction pile method" needs to be carried out (see this video for sand compaction pile method). That is, casing piles will be driven into the seafloor as deep as 60 meters (or 90 meters below the water surface) and the piles will be filled from the top with sand and other compacting materials. Then, the piles are removed slowly leaving the compacting materials in the form of a pillar thus solidifying the seafloor. With this procedure, 76,000 sand pillars will be placed in the seafloor (see Ryukyu Shimpo). 

The government’s admission has critical implications not only for the Japanese government itself but also for the U.S. and international institutions.

Japanese Government's Pretense: No Adverse Impacts on the Environment
The Abe government’s admission has put the government itself in a difficult situation.  

First, driving piles and putting 76,000 pillars into the seafloor are destined to cause tremendous impacts and irreversible changes to the environment of Henoko-Oura Bay, one of the most biodiversity-rich marine environments in the world (see Okinawa Prefectural Government). This presents a significant challenge to the Japanese government’s pretense that the construction and operation of the base do not create any adverse effects on the environment (so that base construction is legally allowed).  


The pretense was provided by the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2012) which was vehemently criticized for numerous flaws by experts and environmental NGOs. The government’s admission is the latest blow to the tainted EIA and the government’s environmental policies concerning Henoko-Oura Bay. The EIA presented no information on the mayonnaise-like condition of the seafloor. 


Oura Bay and Base Construction (Feb. 3, 2019)
© H, Yoshikawa
Second, the proposed changes (or any change of this magnitude) to the original construction plan should necessitate a new environmental impact study and approval from local governments. Given that Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki was elected in a special gubernatorial election in September last year on his promise that he will fight the base construction, he is expected to deny any proposal for changes (see Ryukyu Shimpo).  His refusal will undoubtedly drag the entire base construction plan down, causing a halt or a long delay. 

Japanese Government Resorts to its Usual Tactics  
At this juncture, the Abe administration is downplaying the magnitude of its admission, and it insists that construction work continues no matter what. In fact, the Okinawa Defense Bureau is starting to build a new seawall in the area near the fragile seafloor (see The Japan Times), which many see as the government’s attempt to create a fait accompli and impressions that construction work has crossed the point of no return. 

It is clear that the Japanese government is resorting to its usual tactics. Throughout its reckless pushing of the construction plan, every time environmental issues came into light, the Japanese government managed to sweep them under its administrative rug. It prevented examination of the issues and kept intact the "no environmental impact" pretense while enabling construction work to move forward. 

Ryukyu Shimpo Extra Edition on
Prefectural Government's Revocation
of Land Reclamation Permit  
Most recently, for example, when the Okinawa prefectural government revoked in August 2018 the land reclamation permit for base construction on the grounds of serious environmental and civil engineering problems (see the Okinawa Prefectural Government's Revocation Documents in English), Keiichi Ishii, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Technology, and Tourism came to subvert the revocation. The minister suspended the revocation claiming that it would cause negative effects on the U.S.-Japan alliance and make it difficult to eliminate the dangers posed by the Futenma base at its current location (see The Japan Times). The suspension allowed construction work to resume while completely stifling the environmental and technical issues raised in the revocation.  

Despite the Japanese government’s tactics, however, environmental issues never go away. New problems are emerging and old problems are coming back to haunt the Japanese government. 




U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Judicial System 
The Japanese government’s admission of the fragile seafloor and the need to drive piles to put 76,000 pillars to solidify it has far-reaching implications beyond Henoko-Oura Bay, Okinawa, and Japan. 

First of all, it challenges the claims made by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in the U.S. court and could test the integrity of the U.S. judicial system as a whole. 

In August 2018, the U.S. Federal District Court of Northern California ruled in favor of the DoD (the defendant) (see the Court Ruling) against the coalition of civil society members from Okinawa, Japanese and U.S. (the plaintiffs)  fought under the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act. The Court accepted the DoD’s claims that prior to the start of base construction work, the DoD conducted a proper study regarding possible impacts of the construction and operation of the base on the dugong, manatee-like marine mammal, internationally endangered species, Japan’s Natural Monument, and Okinawa’s cultural icon. The court also accepted the DoD’s 2014 conclusion that the base will have no adverse impact on the dugong. It was this conclusion that finally allowed base construction work to start in July 2014.   


© The Ministry of the Environment
Now the Japanese government’s admission brings into question the validity of DoD’s claims because the DoD heavily relied upon the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s EIA in conducting its study and reaching to the no adverse impact conclusion. As discussed above, the EIA did not include information on the fragile seafloor and the need to driving piles to put 76,000 pillars in the Dugong habitat.

More importantly, the fact that the DoD did not have the information puts the US court system into a complicated situation as the case is now being reviewed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (see the Plaintiffs-Appellants', Opening Brief). 

In an appeals court, documents and evidence to be reviewed are usually limited to those examined in the district court. In the dugong case, most of the documents and evidence examined in the district court came from the period before the DoD completed its environmental study and reached the no adverse impact conclusion in 2014.  The current critical status of the dugong, that is, no dugong has been observed in Henoko-Oura Bay since construction started and Dugong C has been entirely missing from the waters of Okinawa since 2015, was not taken into consideration in the district court (see Governor Takeshi Onaga's letter to DoD describing the current status of the dugong).  

It is not known whether the appeals court would take into consideration the Japanese government’s admission. Nonetheless, the whole situation presents a critical test to the very objectives and mechanism of the NHPA and the integrity of the U.S. judicial system as a whole.
     
International Union for Conservation of Nature and UNESCO World Natural Heritage Nomination
The Abe government’s admission presents a difficult test to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because, as an advisory body to the UNESCO World Heritage programme, IUCN is now involved in the nomination process of the “Northern part of Okinawa Island” for UNESCO World Natural Heritage status. 

On February 1, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment submitted to IUCN its nomination of Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern Part of Okinawa Island, and Iriotomete Island for World Natural Heritage status (see the Nomination document). This nomination is the Japanese government’s second attempt in the last two years and could be the last one. In May 2018, the IUCN recommended that the nomination should be “deferred,” (see the IUCN Evaluation 2018) and the Japanese government withdrew the nomination. Among other things, the presence of the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area (NTA) located just next to the nominated area of the Northern Part of Okinawa Island presented difficult situations for IUCN to approve the nomination.

Henoko-Oura Bay is not included in the nominated area of “Northern Part of Okinawa Island.” However, Henoko-Oura Bay is just 10 miles away from the nominated area, and it is an integral part of the ecosystem of northern Okinawa Island. It is just inconceivable that the World Heritage nomination process (including IUCN experts’ field trip to the nominated area of the Northern Part of Okinawa Island) and driving piles to put 76,000 pillars into the seafloor in Henoko-Oura Bay take place simultaneously without each affecting the other. 

The Japanese government’s admission of the fragile seafloor and its relentless push for base construction in Henoko-Oura Bay is a stark reminder that when U.S. military base issues are involved, the Japanese environmental protection measures including EIA cease to function properly, and the Ministry of the Environment no longer behaves as a good steward of the environment. (To protect the honor of the Ministry, it should be emphasized that the Ministry did a great job getting the other four areas inscribed as World Natural Heritage sites at its first attempts and it is doing a good job in maintaining these sites well). 

The whole situation certainly tests the integrity of IUCN as the world’s trusted institution for the conservation of nature.  
    
U.S. and International Institutions Need to Tell the Japanese Government to Abandon the Destruction Plan
Save the Dugong Rally in SF
© Center for Biological Diversity
For more than twenty years, the people of Okinawa and members of the international civil society have been tenaciously urging the Japanese and U.S.  governments to abandon the base construction plan. Okinawa already has so many U.S. military bases on its soil. The environment of Henoko-Oura Bay, with some 5,300 marines species including 262 endangered species and peaceful communities with rich cultural tradition, is never an ideal site for a military base and training. It should a place for international collaboration for environmental protection and conservation. It is time for the U.S. government (the executive, legislative, and judicial branches) and IUCN to tell the Japanese government to abandon this absurd destruction plan.   


Note:
Thanks to suggestions by CDM, changes have been made to the original description of the Sand Compaction Pile Method in the first paragraph and similar changes have been also made in other paragraphs. I hope the changes help explain better how the method will put 76,000 sand pillars in the seafloor.  (Feb. 16, 2018)

2019年1月3日木曜日

Happy New Year from Henoko-Oura Bay

Hachi ukushi ceremony at Henoko
Happy New Year!

On New Year's Day 2019, some 360 people gathered at the Henoko beach to join the Hachi ukushi (first day of working or of rising) ceremony, celebrating the beginning of the year of the boar.

Traditionally, people in Okinawa hold the Hachi ukushi to pray for the safety and good health of farmers, fisherman, artisans, and community members and a good harvest, good catch, and good yielding in the year.  We hold this traditional Hachi ukushi on the send or third day of the first month of the year in the lunar calendar. 

The Hachi ukushi ceremony at Henoko is a little different from traditional ones, but it serves ultimately the same purposes.  We prayed to the Nirai kanai no kami (gods of the outer world beyond the sea) that the U.S. military base would not be built in Henoko-Oura Bay so that the natural environment that provides us with food and livelihood would remain intact. We prayed that peace would prevail in the world without war so that people all over the world would enjoy a truly safe and healthy living.





Dancing for a peaceful world
In an uplifting and refeshing atmosphere, people enjoyed the prayers, speeches (including a read message from Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki), martial art performance, traditional music/dance, the Henoko Blue's demonstration at sea, and lots of exchange of "Happy New Year" wishes.  Most speakers mentioned that the movement against the Henoko base construction is now gradually spreading out to the world and that demonstrations in Tokyo and the We the People to White House petition are all encouraging signs.




The Brave Henoko Blue team
However, nobody at the ceremony had any illusion that our prayers would be answered easily. We all knew that this year would be extremely challenging and we would have to unite and fight.

Indeed, the scenery of Henoko today is much different from those of a few years ago. Although a very small part of the entire construction, these ugly seawalls built have become an impactful presence in the calm water of Henoko.  Construction ships and the Japan Coast Guard's boats have replaced fishing boats and eco-tour boats.  

Still, we can see that these seawalls, ships, and boats are all surrounded by the biodiversity-rich waters of Henoko-Oura Bay with over 5,300 marine species including some 260 endangered species.  It is this contrasting scenery between the ongoing human-made destruction and the wonder and resilience of nature that compels us to keep fighting for the protection of Henoko-Oura Bay and a peaceful world.

Happy New Year!

H.Y.


The sun rising over the Pacific


2018年11月12日月曜日

We Stand with Governor Denny:辺野古の中止と普天間の撤去を!

新たに沖縄県知事に就任した玉城デニー氏が、現在、辺野古新基地建設の中止と普天間飛行場の撤去を訴えるために、ニューヨーク、ワシントンDCを訪れています。この機会に、Okinawa Environmental Justice Projectは、以下のWe Stand with Governor Dennyのメッセージを発表しました。よろしければ、メッセージの拡散をお願いします!(メッセージの原文(英語)はこちらから
We Stand with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in Fight against Henoko Base Construction and Fight for Withdrawl of Futenma Base

玉城デニー沖縄県知事と共に
普天間基地の撤去と辺野古新基地建設の中止を求めて!
(原文(英文)の和訳)

Okinawa Environmental Justice Project


米国政府が容認する中、日本政府は、沖縄本島北部の辺野古・大浦湾における新たな基地建設を無謀に押し進めている。両政府にとって、辺野古案こそが、人口の集中する宜野湾市の真ん中にある米海兵隊基地普天間飛行場を移転させる「唯一の選択肢」だとしている。

しかし、辺野古案は、20年に亘り民主主義のあらゆる方法をもって反対を示し続きてきた、沖縄の人々の民意に対する侮辱である。また、262種の絶滅危惧種を含む5,300種の海洋生物が生息する世界でも有数の価値をもつ環境の一つの破壊への後戻りできない道である[i]

この侮辱と破壊を行うために、日本政府は、日本と米国の法や規制をあからさまに曲げ、無視し、日米関係のあるべき姿に悪影響を与えている。そしてその過程で、米軍や米国政府も共犯者になっている。

私たちOkinawa Environmental Justice Projectのメンバーは、玉城デニー沖縄県知事と共に、米国市民と米政府に対して、辺野古案をきちんと再考すること、辺野古新基地建設の阻止と普天間飛行場の閉鎖を掲げる沖縄の決意と民意を尊重することを求める[ii]

埋立て承認の撤回
辺野古新基地建設の不当性は、建設のための埋立て承認をめぐる、沖縄県と日本政府間の争いにおいて、明確に示されている。承認は、201312月に、日本政府の圧力のもと、当時の仲井真弘多沖縄県知事が行った[iii]。そして承認は、3年に亘る沖縄防衛局の工事を可能にしてきた。    

2018831日、沖縄県は、これまでの基地建設工事とその環境への影響を慎重に検証した後、基地建設の状況は、公有水面埋立て法に反すると判断し、埋立て承認を撤回した。撤回は、辺野古基地建設を阻止し、沖縄の人々へ尊厳をもたらすため、その生涯の後半を捧げた、故翁長雄志沖縄県知事の固い意思とその努力が、具現化したものだ[iv]

沖縄県による承認撤回は、沖縄防衛局の環境影響調査が、建設地の脆弱な地盤や、基地周辺の建造物の高さを米軍の規制基準(UFC 3-260-01 Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design)に基づいて適切な調査を行っていないこと、さらには、調査の“環境への悪影響なし”の結論に反して、実際には影響が確認されており、保全措置が効果的ではないこと、などが根拠となっている[v]

しかし、県の撤回に対抗するように、1017日、沖縄防衛局は、行政不服審査法のもと、「私人」としての立場で、国交相の石井啓一氏に承認の執行停止を申立てた。防衛局の申立ては、同法は私人を守るものであり、防衛局は政府機関であり私人ではない、との批判に直ちに晒されることになった[vi]。しかし、国交相は、防衛局のこの不合理な法的議論やその他の議論を受け入れ、1031日に沖縄県の撤回の執行停止を行った[vii]。沖縄防衛局は現在、工事を再開している。

国交相の判断を検証する
沖縄県の撤回の執行停止を決断したことを説明する記者会見において、国交相は、沖縄防衛局が申立てにおいて示した以下の二つの議論を繰り返した。しかし、県と防衛局が論争する具体的かつ技術的問題については言及をしなかった、いや、言及を避けたのだ[viii]

国交省は、普天間飛行場の移設は辺野古案が「唯一の選択」であることを前提に、県の撤回は、普天間基地の危険性の除去を困難にすると主張した。

しかし私たちは訴えたい。普天間基地の危険な状況を70年以上も許してきたのは、沖縄県の撤回や沖縄の人々の辺野古案への反対ではなく、日本政府の無能さと、米政府の無関心さであるということを。日本政府は普天間の危険性や騒音について十分に対応したことはなく、その問題に対応する効果的措置をとったこともない。その結果として、普天間基地は、「世界で最も危険な基地」として、人口の集中する宜野湾市の真ん中に、米軍自らの安全基準や規制に違反しながら存在しているのである[ix]

日本政府が何度も復唱する「辺野古が唯一の選択肢」は、日本本土において実行可能な選択肢が多数存在することを認めようとしない態度を、単に表明したものにすぎない。

また国交省は、沖縄県による撤回は、外交において摩擦を引き起こし、日米同盟に悪影響を及ぼす可能性があると主張した。

しかし私たちは反論したい。外交において摩擦を起こし、日米同盟を傷つけているのは、県の撤回ではなく、日本政府におる辺野古新基地建設の無謀な押し付けであるということを。環境正義の視点から、この問題を明確に示す例がある。それは、辺野古・大浦湾に生息する、絶滅危惧種の海洋哺乳類であり、日本の天然記念物であるジュゴンの危機的状況をめぐり下された、相反する二つの判断である。この二つの判断は、沖縄防衛局の環境アセスや影響への緩和措置に関係している。

まず一つは、201881日に、米国連邦地裁裁判所が下した、国家歴史保存法のもと行われてきた「ジュゴン訴訟」においての国防総省勝訴の判断である。裁判所は「国防総省はジュゴンへの影響を「考慮する」手続きを怠った」とする原告の主張を却下した。そして、1) 国防総省は、基地建設のジュゴンへの影響について、沖縄防衛局の環境アセスやその緩和措置への独自の評価を含む、可能な限りの調査を行った、2) 国防総省のジュゴンへの「影響なし」の結論/予測は妥当であったと、判断した[x]

そしてもう一つは、沖縄県による831日の埋立て承認撤回の判断である。撤回の理由の一部として、防衛局の環境アセスの環境への「影響なし」の結論に反して、ジュゴンの行動への影響が確認されていること、防衛局の緩和措置が効果的であることが示せていないと、沖縄県は判断している。

現在、ジュゴン訴訟は控訴審を迎えており、今後この相反する二つの判断が裁判でどのように評価されるのか、それがどのように日米関係へ影響を与えるのか注視される。


最後に私たちは、国交相が、県と防衛局が論争する具体的かつ技術的問題について言及していないのは(言及を避けたのは)、偶然ではないと主張したい。上記したように、私たちの視点から言えば、撤回についての具体的な議論は、沖縄防衛局が日本と米国の法や規制を犯していることを示すことになる。そして必然的に、米軍と米政府も共犯者であると示されるのだ。

最後に
私たちは、米国市民と米政府に、沖縄は日本全体の0.6%の面積に過ぎないにもかかわらず、日本における米軍の基地や訓練場の70%が沖縄に集中していることを再認識してもらいたい。このような状況において、日米政府の「辺野古が唯一の選択肢」という主張は馬鹿げており、それを構造的差別として認識する沖縄の人々が、その主張を容認できるわけはない。また、この状況においては、沖縄の人々の暮らしや環境に深刻な影響を与えずに、また日本と米国の法や規制に違反することなく、米軍が訓練を行うこと、米軍が存在すること自体、無理なのである。

この現状が、沖縄の人々が辺野古案に反対し、普天間飛行場の沖縄からの撤去を求める理由である。この現状が、沖縄の人々が、翁長雄志氏や玉城デニー氏のような人を知事として選び、社会正義と環境正義を求めて共に闘う理由である。

私たちは、米国市民と米政府に対して、辺野古案をきちんと再考すること、辺野古新基地建設の阻止と普天間飛行場の閉鎖を求める沖縄の決意を尊重することを求める。


連絡先:
吉川秀樹
代表
Okinawa Environmental Justice Project
yhidekiy@gmail.com





[i] 日本生態学会、その他による20141111日の「著しく高い生物多様性を擁する沖縄県大浦湾の環境保全を求める19学会合同要望書」は、以下のサイトに掲載されている. http://www.esj.ne.jp/esj/Activity/2014Ohura.pdf
[ii] 辺野古新基地建設に反対する沖縄を支援するための多くの決議が、米国に拠点を置く、あるいは米国と関係する組織やグループにより採択されてきた.
カルフォルニア州のバークレー市議会の2017年の決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
労働組合The Asian Pacific Labor Alliance 2017決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
The Veterans For Peace2018の決議は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
[iii] 米国連邦議会調査局の以下の報告書を参照. Emma Chanlett-Avery and Ian E. Rinehart, The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, US Congressional Research Service, August 14, 2014
[iv] 沖縄の基地問題と自治を訴えた翁長雄志知事の20159月の国連人権理事会でのスピーチ(英文) “Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Governor of Okinawa (Takeshi Onaga)”は以下のサイトで掲載されている. http://dc-office.org/post/574
[v] 沖縄県が沖縄防衛局に831日付けで提出した「国有水面埋立て承認取消通知書」は以下のサイトに掲載されている.
[vi] 毎日新聞(英字版)の2018117日の以下の記事を参照. “Gov’t acting like plaintiff, judge over reclamation lacks validity: experts,” The Mainichi, November 7, 2018.
[vii] 20181030日付けで国交相から沖縄防衛局に「執行申立てに対する決定について」の文書が送られた. 
[viii] The Japan Times20181030日の以下の記事を参照. “Minister suspends Okinawa’s move to Futenma base relocation,” The Japan Times, October 30, 2018.
[ix] 普天間基地の危険性と米軍の安全基準の問題については以下の論考を参照.  C. Douglas Lummis “Futenma: ‘The Most Dangerous Base in the World’,” The Diplomat, March 30, 2018.
[x] ジュゴン訴訟における201881日の連邦地裁の判決の内容については、Courthouse News Serviceの以下の記事を参照. Maria Dinzeo, “Judge OKs Okinawa Base, Despite Endangered Dugong,” Courthouse News Service, August 2, 2018.
[xi] 沖縄県が沖縄防衛局に831日付けで提出した「国有水面埋立て承認取消通知書」の中で撤回の理由は詳細に記されている. 通知者は以下のサイトに掲載されている.

We Stand with Denny: Respect Okinawa's Determination to Stop Henoko Construction and Close Futenma Base

From November 11 to 15, 2018, Okinawa's newly elected Governor Denny Tamaki visits New York and Washington D.C., taking the issues of Futenma Air Base closure and Henoko base construction directly to the people and the government of the U.S.  On this occasion, the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project has issued the following statement.  Please read it and help spread our message!  (日本語はこちらから



We Stand with Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in Fight against Henoko Base Construction and Fight for Withdrawl of Futenma Base 

Okinawa Environmental Justice Project

With the U.S. government’s embrace, the Japanese government has been recklessly pushing a plan to build a new U.S. military base in Henoko-Oura Bay in northern Okinawa Island, Japan. For the governments, the Henoko plan is the “only option” to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station dangerously located in the middle of crowded Gionowan City on the island.

The Henoko plan is, however, an insult to the will of the people of Okinawa who have opposed it in all forms of democracy for the last twenty years. It is also an irreversible pathway to the destruction of one of the most precious environments of the world with more than 5,300 marine species including 262 endangered ones.[i]

To carry out the insult and destruction, the Japanese government bluntly bends and disregards laws and regulations of both Japan and the U.S., undermining the U.S.-Japan relationship. In this process, the U.S. military and government have become accomplices.

We at the Okinawa Environmental Justice Project stand with newly elected Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki in urging the people and the government of the U.S. to take a critical look at the Henoko plan and respect Okinawa’s determination to stop it and to close the Futenma Air Station.[ii]

Revocation of Land Reclamation Permit
The injustice of the Henoko plan is evident in the recent contentions between the Okinawa prefectural government and the Japanese government over the land reclamation permit for the Henoko base construction. The permit was granted in December 2013 by former Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima under pressure from the Japanese government.[iii]  It enabled the Okinawa Defense Bureau to carry out construction work for the last three years.      

On August 31, 2018, after careful examination of the base construction so far and its effects on the environment, the Okinawa prefectural government concluded that the construction was in violation of the Act on Reclamation of Publicly-owned Water Surface, and it revoked the permit. The revocation was a manifestation of the determination and efforts of late Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, whose final phase of life was spent fighting against the Henoko plan and bringing dignity to the people of Okinawa.[iv]

The prefectural government revoked the permit, first of all, because the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s Environmental Impact Assessment Study did not include adequate assessments of the fragile sea bottom of the construction site and the heights of buildings surrounding the proposed air base in accordance with the U.S. military’s UFC 3-260-01 Airfield and Heliport Planning and Design, and also because, contrary to the Study’s “no negative environmental impacts” conclusion, adverse environmental impacts have been observed and many of the Bureau’s mitigation measures have proven to be ineffective.[v]

In response, on October 17, the Okinawa Defense Bureau appealed, “as a private individual,” to Keiichi Ishii, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation, and Tourism to suspend the revocation under the Administrative Appeals Act. The Bureau’s appeal was immediately met with the criticism that the appeal was illegitimate because the Bureau is a government agency, not a private individual and the law is designed to protect private individuals.[vi]  However, on October 30, accepting this absurd legal argument and other arguments by the Bureau, the Minister suspended the prefectural government’s revocation.[vii]  The Bureau is now resuming construction work at Henoko-Oura Bay.

The Minister’s Decision Up-Close
At a press conference, explaining his decision to suspend the Okinawa prefectural government’s revocation, the Minister regurgitated the following two reasons put forth by the Okinawa Defense Bureau in its appeal while failing to address – that is, avoiding - the specific technical issues contested by the prefectural government and the Bureau.[viii]

The Minister insisted, given that the Henoko plan is the “only option” to replace the Futenma Air Station, the prefectural government’s revocation would make it difficult to eliminate the dangers posed by the Futenma base at its current location.

We argue however it is the incompetence of the Japanese government and the indifference of the U.S. government, not the prefectural government’s revocation or the Okinawan people’s opposition to the Henoko plan, that have allowed the dangerous situation of the Futenma base to continue for the last 70 years. The Japanese government has never adequately addressed the dangers and noise pollution at the Futenma base. Nor has it implemented effective measures to mitigate them. As a result, the Futenma Air Station remains in the middle of crowded Ginowan City as “the most dangerous base in the world,” violating the U.S. military’s safety standards and regulations.[ix]   

Moreover, the Government’s endlessly repeated “only option” is merely an expression of its refusal to admit that there are plenty of other viable options in mainland Japan.

The Minister also claimed that the revocation would cause diplomatic friction and have negative effects on the U.S.-Japan alliance.

We argue however it is the Japanese government’s reckless pushing of the Henoko project, not the prefectural government’s revocation,  that is causing diplomatic friction and undermining the U.S.-Japan alliance. From the point of view of environmental justice, a case in point is the two conflicting decisions made over the plight of the Okinawa dugong, an endangered marine mammal and Japan’s natural monument inhabiting the Henoko-Oura Bay area, in relation to the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s EIA and impact mitigation measures.

On the one hand, we have the U.S. federal court decision delivered on August 1, 2018, favoring the U.S. Department of Defense in the 15-year long “dugong case” Under the National Historic Preservation Act. The claim by the plaintiffs from Okinawa and the U.S. that the DoD had failed to “take into account” the impact of the base construction on the dugong was dismissed.  And it was ruled that the DoD did all it could do to study the impacts of the base on the dugong including evaluation of the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s EIA and mitigation measure and that the DoD’s “no impact” conclusion/prediction was reasonable.[x]  On the other hand, we have the Okinawa prefectural government’s decision to revoke the land reclamation permit delivered on August 31. As part of the reasons for its revocation, despite the Bureau’s no impact conclusion in its EIA, the Okinawa prefectural government determined that impacts have been observed in the behavior of the dugong and the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s mitigation measures have not proven to be effective.[xi] 

With the dugong case now in the appellate court, it will be interesting to see how these conflicting decisions will be judged and whether and how this judgment affects the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Finally, we argue it is no coincidence the Minister failed to provide (avoided) detailed discussion on the specific technical reasons contested by the prefectural government and the Okinawa Defense Bureau. As discussed above, in our view, any discussion on specifics of the revocation would reveal that the Okinawa Defense Bureau is violating laws and regulations of Japan and the U.S. government, inevitably making the U.S. military and government its accomplices. 

Concluding Remarks
We want to remind the people and the government of the U.S. that while Okinawa accounts for only 0.6 percent of the entire landmass of Japan, 70 percent of U.S. military bases and training areas in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa. In this situation, the Japanese and U.S. governments’ insistence “Henoko is the only option” does not make sense and is not acceptable to the people of Okinawa, who view it as a form of structural discrimination. In this situation, the U.S. military could not exercise or even exist without severely impacting the lives of the people and the environment of Okinawa and violating laws and regulations of both Japan and the U.S.

This is why the people of Okinawa continue to oppose the Henoko plan and demand the removal of the Futenma Air Station from Okinawa. This is why the people of Okinawa elect people like Onaga Takeshi and Denny Tamaki as Governors and join them to fight for social and environmental justice.

We invite the people and the government of the U.S. to take a critical look at the Henoko plan and respect Okinawa’s determination to stop it and to close the Futenma Air Station. 

Contact
Hideki Yoshikawa
Director
Okinawa Environmental Justice Project
yhidekiy@gmail.com





[i] See the statement “ichijirushiku takai seibutsu tayosei wo yosuru Okinawa ken henoko ourawan no kankyo hozen wo motomeru jyuku gakkai godo yobosho [collective statement of 19 Japanese academic organizations requesting environmental conservation of the highly extensive biodiversity of Oura Bay in Okinawa prefecture],” The Ecological Society of Japan et al., 2014.
[ii] Many resolutions have been adopted by U.S. based and U.S. related organizations and groups to support Okinawa’s movement to fight the Henoko plan. See for example the resolution by the City Council of Berkeley, California here: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/SearchMain.aspx?cx=017385055954264103894:kn5xiwd8ubm&cof=FORID:9&ie=UTF-8&q=resolution%20Henoko
See the resolution adopted by the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance in 2017 here:
See the resolution adopted by the Veterans For Peace in 2018 here:
[iii] See Emma Chanlett-Avery and Ian E. Rinehart, The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy, US Congressional Research Service, August 14, 2014
[iv] See “Oral Statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Governor of Okinawa (Takeshi Onaga),” September 21, 2015.
[v] See the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s official document “koyusuimen umetate shonin torikeshi tsuchisho [notice of revocation of permit for land reclamation of publicly owned water surface]” sent to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, August 31, 2018.
[vi] See “Gov’t acting like plaintiff, judge over reclamation lacks validity: experts,” The Mainichi, November 7, 2018.
[vii] See the official letter “shikko moshitate ni taisuru kettei ni tsuite (notice of decision regarding appeal to suspend executive action” sent by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, October 30, 2018. 
[viii] See “Minister suspends Okinawa’s move to Futenma base relocation,” The Japan Times, October 30, 2018.
[ix] See C. Douglas Lummis “Futenma: ‘The Most Dangerous Base in the World’,” The Diplomat, March 30, 2018.
[x] Maria Dinzeo, “Judge OKs Okinawa Base, Despite Endangered Dugong,” Courthouse News Service, August 2, 2018.
[xi] See the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s official document “koyusuimen umetate shonin torikeshi tsuchisho [notice of revocation of permit for land reclamation of publicly owned water surface]” sent to the Okinawa Defense Bureau, August 31, 2018.