Taiwanese fishermen in South China Sea
A Taiwanese fishing boat set sail to Itu Aba, in Spratly Islands, in protest against the international tribunal's ruling on the South China Sea dispute on 20 July 2016REUTERS/Damon Lin

Soon after an international court deemed an island controlled by Taiwan in the disputed South China Sea as "rocks", a fleet of five fishing boats carrying Taiwanese fishermen set sail towards the island to protest against the ruling. The national flag of Taiwan were hoisted on the vessels, which departed on Wednesday (20 July).

The Hague court's verdict demoted Itu Aba – which Taiwan calls Taiping – and declared it as "rocks" and not a true island that is capable of sustaining human life, limiting its rights in the mineral-rich sea.

The boats – loaded with instant noodles and eggs – left the south coast on a week-long trip to the island. Taiwan is believed to have occupied the region for several decades. Besides the fishermen, eight legislators from the ruling and main opposition parties also flew aboard an air force transport plane to the island.

"This is to protest the demotion of Taiping from an island to a rock and zoning the water to the Philippines," Lo Chiang-fei spokesman for the expedition said, according to Reuters. "When they get there, they will land, get fresh water to show this place can sustain human life and bring it back."

The Permanent Arbitration Court ruling in the South China Sea dispute case was brought in by the Philippines under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Taiping in Spratly Island was provided only 12 nautical miles of territorial waters for being "rocks", in comparison 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone is given to islands that can sustain human habitation.