Ota ‘respects’ heliport study

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. — Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota said April 10 that he would respect a decision by the municipal government of Nago to approve a feasibility study for a new offshore heliport for the U.S. Marines in northeastern Okinawa.

Ota made his position clear during a meeting with Nago Mayor Tetsuya Higa after Higa said the previous day that his city would allow the feasibility study if a consensus was reached among local authorities and residents.

Higa later said the talks with Ota had been significant and indicated he would formally announce Nago’s agreement to the feasibility study after confirming the intentions of fishermen and others concerned, local sources said. During the talks, Higa asked Ota about his position on the feasibility study and regional development in Nago and other northern parts of the main island of Okinawa, they said.

Ota reiterated his position that the relocation of the heliport is a matter that should be dealt with between the central government and the local governments concerned, and that the prefectural government will do whatever it can to help if asked to do so, they said. The governor then expressed his understanding of Nago’s position, they said.

Commenting on the development of northern Okinawa, Ota said he is contemplating the construction of a high grade highway and research institutions as well as the promotion of a human resources development project in the region, they said.

Higa said he appreciated Ota’s proposals and pointed out that at present he has only approved the feasibility study and is not necessarily in favor of construction of the heliport. Sounded out by the central government on the heliport plan in January, Higa refused to negotiate on the grounds that the Okinawa Prefectural Government would not be represented in the talks. However, he stated on April 9 that he would condone the feasibility study after confirming the opinions of fishermen and other locals and seeking the understanding of Nago residents.