Miss Ecuador crowned Miss Earth 2016

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Katherine Elizabeth Espin succeeds the Philippines’s Angelia Ong as our planet’s ambassador. (Photo from Miss Earth Facebook Page)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Ecuador's Katherine Elizabeth Espin was crowned Miss Earth 2016 on Saturday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The 23-year-old Espin, a model and cosmetologist from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, bested 82 other hopefuls including 21-year-old Philippine representative Imelda Schweighart, a student from Puerto Princesa.

Schweighart – who was hoping to take the crown from last year's Miss Earth, fellow Filipina Angelia Ong – didn't make it to the pageant's top 16.

Espin said she feels so blessed to have won and thanked the people in the Philippines for their warm hospitality

"I have never been to a country where people are so warm-hearted and I really want to thank every single (person) in the Philippines because they made me feel like I'm in my home," she told reporters. "People who have never seen me supporting me: that is something huge. Just by seeing that, I feel like a winner."

Espin also outlined what she would do as the new Miss Earth.

"I am a lawyer and I fight for justice and for what is good," she said. "And now, as Miss Earth, I will fight for the environment and actually to have people be conscientious about the environment and about the respect that we need to have towards it."

Meanwhile, Schweighart told reporters that she was happy with the results and that she will continue her advocacy to ban genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the Philippines.

"I'm just gonna chill in the province," she said about her plans after the pageant. "First, I'm gonna focus on my music. My music is so different from the rest. I love my music and I will keep flourishing on that matter."

Finally, Ong said Espin could turn to her for advice and guidance.

"Katherine, congratulations, you're off to a different kind of adventure," Ong told reporters. "We are not the usual beauty pageant, so be prepared. Be prepared to plant in heels. Be prepared to talk anytime anywhere. Most of all, just enjoy the ride and be as sincere as you can. And you enjoy being Miss Earth. Let's continue the legacy that Miss Earth has taught us."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Nicolette Henson-Hizon contributed to this report.