JAPAN and the WORLD magazine attended a high level meeting between H.E. Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, Honduras President and Dr. Akihiko Tanaka*, President of JICA to discuss a further cooperation between two countries.
*Mr. Kitaoko Shinichi is the new President of JICA since October 2015.
—Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado
Well, thank you very much for allowing us to come here and talk with you. JICA has left a mark that cannot be erased.
We have been talking with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and found in him a great interest in consolidating the relationship between Japan and Central America. He also mentioned a series of ideas and compromises the government of Japan could make happen through JICA. For us the revitalization of hydroelectric plants and dams in the Lindo River and Cañaveral is very important. Roberto Ordóñez, the Minister of Energy, is present today to mobilize the implementation of these projects, which are vital for Honduras. The support for the project regarding Highway CA-6 is also equally important to us. Honduras is also launching the concept “Centro Logístico de Honduras Para Las Americas,” to link the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. Right now we are building a highway, and we are on a concession in Puerto Cortez, which is the first public-private partnership in Honduras. Compared to the Atlantic, the Pacific side is underdeveloped. Honduras’ Pacific has frontiers with Nicaragua and El Salvador, and this site in Amapala has a depth of 25 meters at low tide. Therefore, it has a capacity for Post-Panamax vessels. This highway is already under construction, and in one year it will reach the Pacific. It’s 391km long.
We are also in the process of undertaking a study looking into the feasibility of another port in the Atlantic, Puerto de Castilla. It’s also 25 meters deep, and is the second deepest place on the Latin American Atlantic coast. The distance between Puerto Castilla to Amapala is 420km. At the moment, Panama is working on the amplification of its canal, and once it’s done, they will be able to cover up to 20% of the shipping demand between both oceans. These are maritime cargo movements from all around the world, and a large number of them pass through Central America. It is necessary to think of solutions so we can have an alternative. It is for this reason that we have considered the “Centro Logístico de Honduras Para Las Americas” as an alternative for the Americas and the world. Because of this we already have the feasibility study for a logistics center in this region that could help make the handling of cargo going to, and coming from, Nicaragua and El Salvador more efficient. Between these three countries we want to make this zone an important logistics zone. However, there’s a little detail: Amapala is an island, and it requires a 2km bridge to link it to the mainland. We want to request JICA, and we talked about this with Prime Minister Abe yesterday.
The other topic to discuss is that Honduras is one of the five countries in the world most affected by climate change. We are tackling this issue on different fronts. One of them is relocating families who live in the zones near the coast. Another aspect is how to manage rainwater so it does not cause floods.
We are thinking about opening small, medium and big dams to administrate rainfall that can be used for irrigation and human consumption. In this aspect we have found out that Japan conducted a study decades ago on the Choluteca River’s drainage basin. This river flows from Francisco Morazán to Choluteca in the Pacific. We want to use that water to irrigate certain areas of the country and improve our agricultural production and also our water consumption, particularly that of the capital city. The majority of people living in Honduras’ capital don’t have immediate access to water. Honduras also announced adopting Japan’s model of digital television. Therefore, we asked Prime Minister Abe and the Minister of Communications how Japan could help us expand our digital television in a way that does not only cover its traditional format, but also in mobile services to incorporate them into education, commerce, and to connect the country in terms of disaster prevention. Another topic is that Honduras, just like the rest of Central America, Colombia and Mexico, has in the past two decades faced a great security impact from South American drug trafficking through Central America to North America. We have never lost as many lives in the history of the Republic of Honduras as we did in the past two decades. However, this is changing. After being ranked the most violent country in America, and in the world, a few years ago, the Global Peace Index has placed us out of the top 5 American countries with the most problems. We are drastically lowering our security problems, we have succeeded by fighting crime. However, what is really keeping peace is peaceful cohabitation, and in that we want to ask for your assistance. Additionally, we are opening a number of parks, similar to the ones you have here, where we can conduct many sport activities. We hope that JICA volunteers can come and support our instructors to generate sport and art culture. Thank you very much.
—President Akihiko Tanaka
I appreciate your detailed explanation of all the projects we can cooperate in. Your logistics project will be very ambitious. This project and initiative really impresses me because it wants to make Honduras a hub concerning all the merchandise shipped through Central America. Surely, Prime Minister Abe must have said the same thing I’m about to say, which is that we will study what type of corporation will be feasible to contribute to this logistics project. I want to make some technical observations: for the bridge in Amapala we need to consider this project in an integral context based on the infrastructure project we are developing in Central America. You surely know we are developing La Union port in El Salvador. We need to consider the relation between your project and the La Union port we are developing presently in El Salvador.
—Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado
We have conversed with the President of El Salvador and Nicaragua and their governments, and we want to integrate all ports as one system, particularly along the Gulf of Fonseca. Amapala is a great potential for the La Union port.
—President Akihiko Tanaka
We will take that comment into account. I also have understood the importance of climate change and how it affects Honduras. We deeply thank you for the importance you have given to the study Japan conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. However, I must say that the study is 30 years old, we need to consider all the changes and modifications based on the actual climate circumstances. Also considering the substantial changes in the environmental impact as well as human rights we think it’s very difficult to implement a project based on that very old JICA study. As Prime Minister Abe mentioned, we need to maintain a very prudent posture in terms of this study’s implementation.
Concerning the digital television conversation, I believe we have already sent a consultant working in that area, so we can extend this television system with the presence of that Japanese assessor. I’m very impressed with the efforts Honduras has undertaken to reduce crime. We will continue supporting neighborhood watch groups in Honduras just as we are supporting this program in Brazil. We want to reinforce the sports’ initiative with JICA volunteers.