Regarding the Sept. 2 editorial “Habitat for military aircraft?“: I think the main reason that people living in Okinawa, including myself, oppose U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in particular, is that the population, in general, does not feel the benefits of bearing the burden of so many U.S. bases.
In the first place, few jobs are available on the bases, and those locals who do have jobs there make less than their American counterparts. Second, roads everywhere have destroyed much of Okinawa’s natural beauty. Third, the businesses that make money off the bases and the “sympathy fund” are limited to companies with ties to the prefectural government.
If the U.S. and Japanese governments really want to win the hearts and minds of Okinawans, they need to make the benefits of hosting the bases more apparent. For example:
• Okinawans should not have to pay for compulsory car insurance. Okinawa does not have railways and the monorail system is limited, so most people must rely on cars.
• Double the number of public school teachers, raise their salaries and provide teachers’ aids. Twenty students per class should be the norm instead of 38 to 40 students. Create top-of-the-line schools for the children of Okinawa.
• Abolish most national taxes; make the rest of Japan financially bear Okinawa’s burden. Get rid of road taxes for those living in Okinawa. And keep the consumption tax at 5 percent, regardless of what the rest of Japan pays.
• Make salaries in Okinawa, especially for base workers, comparable to those paid in the rest of Japan.
• Turn all of Okinawa into a duty-free zone for everyone living in Okinawa, and pay every Okinawan who is working there a “sympathy allowance.”
If most of these ideas are implemented, a lot more people will want to see the bases remain, and the U.S. military presence will not be an issue anymore.
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